And Now We’re a Threat to National Security

So, Al’s got this friend who reads the blog but doesn’t comment, because when he did comment here, I tended to yell at him a lot. I like him, and he’s ridiculously smart, but he’s one of those guys who enjoys arguing for the sake of it — or, more specifically, for the sake of reinforcing that he is ridiculously smart, whereas other people are not.

Since I am also ridiculously smart, I often find these arguments entertaining — except when they start off with a ludicrous nitpick “logical flaw” this dude and his towering intellect have spotted in someone else’s argument.* Particularly if, you know, it’s my argument. Then I just get tired and irritated, because he sounds like a goddamned troll, regardless of how good his personal and professional references are. Hence aforementioned yelling.

Last week, I was especially tired and irritated to begin with, because of actual trolls showing up here in greater numbers than ever before. So naturally, that’s exactly when Al’s friend decides to send me a lengthy screed on the subject of DEAR KATE, HERE’S WHY YOU’RE WRONG, with regard to my most recent post discussing that wackiest of concepts: we don’t know how to make fat people permanently thin.

The way to make fat people permanently thin is for those fat people to incorporate lifestyle changes such that they can take in fewer calories than their bodies need, such that they burn fat until they’ve lost weight to whatever the fuck ‘thin’ equates to, and then continue to maintain a diet and exercise regimen to maintain that weight, hopefully without making themselves so miserable that they freak out and kill themselves from the stress.

What this means, in practical terms, is that ANYONE CAN BECOME THIN and ANYONE CAN STAY THIN, it’s simply a matter of how miserable they’re willing to make themselves in the course of doing so… Let’s not confuse ‘impossible’ and ‘unrealistic’. It may be unrealistic for everyone to be thin, but it’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of suffering.

Do you see what I mean about both the ludicrous nitpicking and the resemblance to a troll? I don’t categorize him as an actual troll (even though he’d probably like it if I did) because, if you look closely, he’s not wrong — since what he’s arguing is that fat people could become thin if they would only take in “fewer calories than their bodies need.”

Indeed, malnutrition often makes people thin, though it sometimes causes bloated stomachs.

Furthermore, he even acknowledges that the only way to maintain the lower weight is to voluntarily subject yourself to continued malnutrition and extreme suffering, of the sort that can cause mental health problems up to and including suicide.

So yeah, I guess I usually leave out the “literally starve yourself until you’re suicidal” option when I’m discussing the effectiveness of different weight loss strategies. My bad.

Which is pretty much what I said to him in response. That and, until you find more than a handful of people willing to undergo malnutrition and extreme mental distress for a period longer than, oh, I don’t know, five years? Then my point that the vast majority of fat people cannot become permanently thin is entirely unaffected by this argument.

Now, believe it or not, all that’s just a preamble to today’s real point. What I’ve left out so far is the most obviously ill-considered point he made in the first e-mail and reiterated in a second:

How do I know this? It comes from my own experience as an active-duty army infantry soldier. See, I’ve noticed something: in groups of people that get up at 5 every morning and, before doing anything else, run four to six miles, and then do a workday that’s fairly strenuous, you notice that people in this lifestyle correlate very strongly to ‘people who are not fat’, despite the fact that many of them (myself included) eat like fucking pigs.

Setting aside the fact that correlation doesn’t equal causation (clearly, in this case) — and the fact that there are plenty of fat civilian manual laborers who may not run several miles in the morning but certainly have physically strenuous workdays (to say nothing of, uh, fat fitness instructors) — let’s just take half a second to think about another correlation, which I kind of can’t believe someone as smart as him failed to factor in.

That would be the correlation between joining the army and not being fat in the first place.

The U.S. military disqualifies any applicant who doesn’t meet the Army Weight Control Program standards — and anyone who comes to exceed those standards while enlisted and remains intractably fat despite being subjected to extra draconian weight loss measures? Is kicked out.

The standards?

Age Group: 17–20
Male (% body fat): %20
Female (% body fat): %30

Age Group: 21–27
Male (% body fat): %22
Female (% body fat): %32

Age Group: 28–39
Male (% body fat): %24
Female (% body fat): %34

Age Group: 40 & Older
Male (% body fat): %26
Female (% body fat): %36

Those are the absolute maximums. However, they note,

all personnel are encouraged to achieve the more stringent Department of Defense (DOD)-wide goal, which is 18 percent body fat for males and 26 percent body fat for females.

And yet, I’m supposed to believe lifestyle is the reason why you don’t find many fat people in the army? They don’t let fat people in, and they kick out anyone who gets too fat, yet it’s exercise that’s responsible for the lack of fat people in this sample?

Mmkay.

The sad part is, this guy is hardly the first person to make this argument to me — he’s just, so far, the smartest. We are so fucking conditioned to believe that diet and exercise are the keys to permanent thinness — and that anyone who’s fat must be slacking in one or both of those areas — people really think, “Look at the military!” is a trump card in these discussions, when there is no evidence whatsofuckingever that the most ferocious drill sergeant alive could make a group of fat people thin (let alone permanently thin), since there are no truly fat people in the friggin’ military.

Hey, I just thought of something! There aren’t many fat fashion models, either! They must have really healthy diet and exercise regimens, just like soldiers! And hey, what about cancer patients? They sure know how to get thin! YOU FATTIES JUST AREN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH. (Though evidently, we’re all gonna get cancer because of teh fat, so maybe that’s the answer to the obesity crisis, right there.)

Anyway. I thought about that conversation immediately when I saw the infuriating news item du jour: former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona is squawking about how THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA is a fucking threat to national security, because we soon won’t have enough thin people available to make up a strong military.

So, yeah, there are a zillion different directions I could go with that one, but I’m gonna focus on just one: what Dr. Richard Carmona really means is that there aren’t enough poor, thin people who have no better option than to join the military during wartime.

Carmona cited as the main causes of childhood obesity the increase in low-income, single-parent homes; the elimination of physical education in public schools; and the lack of access to gyms and nutritious food among the poor.

Calling obesity “the terror within,” Carmona said that prevention is critical to combating it.

The terror within, y’all. And oddly enough, today, the terror within is caused by poverty, not laziness and gluttony and a lack of personal responsibility. Hmmmm.

You know, in a sick way, it’s kind of refreshing to hear a former surgeon general talk up social “causes” of fatness, instead of just calories in, calories out — he even mentions that “the poor need better access to nutritious foods and fitness facilities,” though of course that comes after his saying they need to be edumucated about “what foods are healthy and unhealthy.” (HOW does anyone still believe people are ignorant on that matter? Can these assholes SERIOUSLY think most poor people just don’t know that an apple might be better for you than a Big Mac?) It’s like… you mean, poverty might have… health effects? For real??

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still highly skeptical of his reasoning, and the reasoning of most people who go on about how lack of access to fresh produce and gyms causes teh fat among teh poor, because these discussions rarely take into account at least three significant points:

  1. Poor people are a lot more likely to go through cycles of eating too few calories followed by bingeing — which, when it’s known as “dieting,” instead of “only being able to afford enough food sometimes” — has indeed been shown to make people fatter in the long run;
  2. Plenty of poor people are getting at least the recommended amount of daily exercise at their jobs, but show up as “sedentary” in surveys that ask about how much people work out in their leisure time — i.e., the kind of time that someone working 2 or 3 physically demanding jobs probably doesn’t have;
  3. In this country, African-Americans and Latinos are disproportionately poor, and they also happen to be genetically predisposed to having higher weights than white people.

If you aren’t thinking about those three factors when you think about poverty and fatness — not to mention rigorously asking yourself what else you might be forgetting — you can fuck right off, as far as I’m concerned. But having said that, of course I’m all for making nutritious food and safe exercise opportunities more available to poor people — not to mention, oh, the time to cook fresh foods and exercise (outside of work) that comes with making a living wage while working a reasonable number of hours.

I don’t think for a second that these things would magically make poor people thinner, but I’m absolutely all for them.

So the whole problem with Carmona’s comments** is the context: obesity among the poor is a problem because we can’t find enough thin but well-muscled people willing to go off to the Middle East to die.

Well, shit, from where I’m sitting, all we need is a change in recruiting strategy to head off this looming national security threat! Private high schools still have gym classes, Dr. Carmona — often a variety of excellent sports programs, too! The children of the upper classes are, on average, thinner than the poor. White people are, on average, thinner than brown people. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in all the best neighborhoods, and are really quite affordable for households with two incomes from professional jobs — ditto state-of-the-art gyms. So if eating fresh produce and working out make everyone thin, and all we need are enough thin people to join up? The solution to this crisis is obvious: get rich, white people to enlist in the military!

Oh. Right.

How fucking perverse is it that the correlation between poverty and fatness is only considered in terms of social inequality when the country starts running low on cannon fodder?

And given that we are rather low on new recruits, and so many believe the military lifestyle is a proven cure for fatness, why not just let fatties into the army and whip ‘em into shape? What’s up with those body fat standards in the first place? Exercise makes fat people thin! Sure, the fatties would have to spend a bit longer in training, but politically, it’s still a winner! No need for a draft, AND the government would be forcing poor people to lose weight by controlling their every move! WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

No, seriously — for the type of people who think this way about both fat and the poor, what’s not to love? Why haven’t they started actively recruiting fat people? Get ‘em running, control their food intake, and after a while, they’ll be thin but muscular killing machines just like all the rest! It’s just a matter of calories in, calories out, y’all — everybody knows that! Who’s better equipped than the American military to redress that obvious thermodynamic imbalance among the fatassed poor? It’s the perfect solution to a whole host of problems!

Except for the part where it wouldn’t work — and neither would anything else Carmona proposes — because we don’t actually know how to make fat people permanently thin.

Sigh.

*In a subsequent conversation, the quasi-troll in question described this as “my pedantic wangle-fucked nitpickery.” This is why I like him.

**Okay, actually, that’s not the whole problem with Carmona’s comments, since he also trots out the “We’re seeing Type 2 diabetes in children because of the obesity crisis!” argument. As many people have pointed out around here before, actually, we’re seeing Type 2 diabetes in children now because we’re testing for it, which is a recent development.

When I got my first car, I started noticing other Toyota Corollas everywhere I went. That doesn’t mean there was a sudden increase in the number of Corollas on the road; it means I was suddenly looking for them, when I never had before. When a woman gets pregnant and starts noticing other preggos everywhere she goes, that doesn’t mean there’s a fucking fertility epidemic. And when you start testing children for something you never tested them for before, and you find out some of them have it? That doesn’t mean there’s an increase in the number of children who have it — especially with something like Type 2 diabetes, which we know often goes undiagnosed for years. It just means you’ve noticed something you never noticed before. Since we don’t have any fucking long-term data on the actual incidence of Type 2 in children, because nobody used to test children for it, it is impossible to say whether there’s been an increase, a decrease, or no change.

152 thoughts on “And Now We’re a Threat to National Security

  1. How fucking perverse is it that the correlation between poverty and fatness is only considered in terms of social inequality when the country starts running low on cannon fodder?

    Amen. That’s horrible.

    Regarding the question of how to make fat people permanently thin, Al’s friend’s comments point up another part of the argument that I have never considered explicitly before. I usually just dismiss the “Yes we do! Just [blah blah blah calories-in-calories-out willpower]!,” which the speaker usually knows perfectly well is flippant and unhelpful, because there are so many people out there who have been successful at any number of difficult, time-consuming, physically and mentally demanding accomplishments, so “they could lose weight and keep it off if they tried hard enough” is not an argument I like to even waste any time on. Clearly there is something else going on here. But now I am kind of afraid that people with this attitude actually believe that no fat person actually has the “willpower” or fortitude to succeed at anything. That we are not-suited-for-the-rigors-of-the-military fuckups in all areas of our lives. Which is a nice tidy little package because it denies you any way out of the negative stereotype unless you lose weight and keep it off, which of course people by and large do not and cannot do. As long as you stay fat you are just “proving” the person’s point because if you had any strength of character, you would lose weight. So you are stuck in the stereotype for life and the thin people get to go about their business feeling superior ad infinitum. Pretty good system for them.

    It seems obvious now that I type it out (and I know people are prejudiced against the fat for exactly these reasons), but I never thought about it quite that way. I just assumed that people acknowledged that fat people can be successful and strong-willed and determined and moral in other arenas, they just put on blinders as to why we are still fat despite those characteristics. But now I think they don’t really quite believe that we have the character to accomplish anything worthwhile.

  2. As long as you stay fat you are just “proving” the person’s point because if you had any strength of character, you would lose weight. So you are stuck in the stereotype for life and the thin people get to go about their business feeling superior ad infinitum. Pretty good system for them.

    Uh huh. Also, if you float, you’re a witch, but if you drown, you were innocent.

  3. I don’t have much to say in response to your brilliant rant other than:

    he’s one of those guys who enjoys arguing for the sake of it — or, more specifically, for the sake of reinforcing that he is ridiculously smart, whereas other people are not.

    I fucking hate that guy. I went to school with way too many people who are that guy (AP classes in high school and then an engineering major will do that) and ARGH. Like, I’m ridiculously smart too, but you don’t see me wasting the class’s time by arguing with the instructor over some nitpicky detail just so everyone can see my smartness and be in awe. GOD. (Heh, sorry to hijack your rant into my own rant :P)

  4. So the whole problem with Carmona’s comments** is the context: obesity among the poor is a problem because we can’t find enough thin but well-muscled people willing to go off to the Middle East to die.

    …and the thin ones he can find are gay and that’s just obviously unacceptable.

  5. Seriously, everyone could be rich if they were just willing to live in utter privation for the rest of their days. Even if you’re not making that much money, draconian restriction on your spending and your quality of life is all it takes to make savings possible. You owe it to yourself and to your country.

  6. Exactly. ANYONE CAN BECOME RICH and ANYONE CAN STAY RICH, it’s simply a matter of how miserable they’re willing to make themselves in the course of doing so. It may be unrealistic for everyone to be rich, but it’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of suffering.

  7. You know, the beginning of this post [because it's a big'un] illustrates exactly why I looked into this ‘just be fat’ concept. I’d diet my way down to a miniscule weight [and by diet, I mean anorexia], and I’d be you know… sort of okay with how I looked. Not with how I felt, certainly. And one day I just… looked into my future. And I measured whether feeling ‘sort of okay’ with my malnourished body was worth a lifetime of torturing myself through extreme food restriction and rigid rules. And my thought was “Hell no”. I think dieting is a kind of torture. It destroys you mentally and physically. Who wants to be a psychotic skinny girl?

    Sure, a person can be thin forever if they never let up on the maintenance. But lets save that for our enemies. Sheesh.

  8. ANYONE CAN BECOME RICH and ANYONE CAN STAY RICH, it’s simply a matter of how miserable they’re willing to make themselves in the course of doing so. It may be unrealistic for everyone to be rich, but it’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of suffering.

    Pedantic wangle-fucked nitpickery at its finest.

  9. I swear I’ve read that Toyta/pregnant thing before. Please tell me I have, or else I may think I am going crazy!!

    Alright, I understand the whole calories in and calories out thing. But, again, after being redirected from a link either here or another FA blog, I read a study that made quite a bit of sense. It basically said…

    Some people store no fat. They eat and that food is instantly metabolized. They used Lance Armstrong as an example of this type of person. They’re constantly on-the-go. (I am married to this type of person, who can and HAS eaten an entire package of Oreo cookies in a sitting…and has not gained more than five pounds since we met eight years ago – He cannot sit for a long period of time, he MUST do something).

    Other people store calories in fat. So, even if they’re restricting calories and exercising, their bodies will always store the calories they eat in fat. The muscle, they may have, will use their fat stores for fuel, but the calories they consume will always be stored as fat. No matter how often they exercise, or how much they restrict their eating, their bodies just store the calories in fat.

    Finally, when people exercise or if they’re working a labor intensive job, they tend to consume more calories to replace what they’re burning. The body, fat or thin, is an amazing biological MACHINE. It will try whatever means necessary to replace the fat stores or energy you’re expending. Again, why is this so hard to understand?

    Even if I am restricting calories and exercising, anything I will eat will be stored as fat and not expended. I don’t think even if I was thin as a rail by malnurishing myself and exercising obsessively that that fact would ever change.

  10. Blah. Apologies. I will amend that with an ass-saving “Theoretically” replacing the “Sure”. Way more than calories in/calories out and bone-crunching exercise effecting the outcome.

  11. Sure, a person can be thin forever if they never let up on the maintenance.

    I wouldn’t actually even bet on that. I felt poorly for most of last month and was eating very little (probably more than most anorexics, but less than most low-calorie diets). Lost four pounds, then stopped. If it were as simple as calories in-calories out, I should have been losing several pounds a week, since I was eating about 500 calories less than would supposedly be required for me to merely remain motionless and alive, and less than half what I should have been eating to supposedly maintain my activity level. (I did all sorts of calculations so I could use myself as an object lesson, as I am currently doing.)

  12. Uh, Kate said all that much more concisely, but dammit, if I’m going to have to have even more gut troubles than usual and not get to enjoy food for a month, I’m gonna use my subsequent lack of weight loss as an illustration until I wear it out.

  13. I swear I’ve read that Toyta/pregnant thing before. Please tell me I have, or else I may think I am going crazy!!

    Buffy, it’s quite possible I unconsciously stole it from someone, but I think it’s more likely that those are two of the first examples that leap to mind when anyone thinks of “things you only notice once you start looking for them.” It’s also possible I’ve used those two examples before around here.

    I really did notice Corollas everywhere when I got my first car, too. Also noticed Geo Prizms everywhere, ’cause they looked practically identical to Corollas at the time.

  14. Kate, possibly you’ve said it before. I know I’ve heard you say it before, anyway, though it might not have been on the blog.

    And yeah, I noticed Civics everywhere when I got my current car.

  15. if you float, you’re a witch, but if you drown, you were innocent.

    Huh. I always thought the test was whether you weighed the same as a duck …

    Because I’m a sadist, I read a lot of the tripe on MSNBC’s “Joy Fit Club:” tales of people who’ve lost more than 100 pounds and “kept it off” (although of course, they don’t say how long they’ve “kept it off.”) They list the “before” and “after” diets, and I never cease to be amazed at how every one of these people ate the stereotypical “fat person” diet of doughnuts, fast food and soda before and now consumes about 1300 calories a day. Do they really think that they will be able to live forever eating — regularly — what people who were never fat eat when they are “on a diet”?

    Also, perhaps someone could suggest to General Carmona that a better way to make our nation secure is not to have more soldiers because we “need” them, but to establish policies that mean we need fewer soldiers.

  16. *sigh*

    Y’know, fat is such a dynamic thing. It makes me stupid, folks see me as a germ (for good reason, since my fat is contagious too) and now my fat makes me a terrorist.

    Damn. I just can’t win. *disgusted eye roll*

  17. Sorry, for the long post, about crap I am sure everyone knew….

    But perhaps some people store fat because they’re women, or perhaps their ancestors went through long periods of famine, or maybe they played with their own metabolism by using drugs or developing eating disorders. There could be numerous reasons why some people burn calories immediately and others store them. But to argue that starvation and long-term maintenance is a solution, really doesn’t make sense to me.

  18. Buffy-

    Those are totally conjectures I love to drag out. My family is predominantly Irish, and we’re all stocky, muscular and prone to the chub. The women more so. But we all have great big healthy babies, little instances of cancer and other supposedly fat-related diseases, and we’re all long-lived unless factors like drug or alcohol abuse enter the picture. I think there’s a rhyme and a reason for why everyone looks the way they do.

    And so many people are permanently fat because they fiddled with metabolism for all of their early years.

  19. Seriously, everyone could be rich if they were just willing to live in utter privation for the rest of their days. Even if you’re not making that much money, draconian restriction on your spending and your quality of life is all it takes to make savings possible. You owe it to yourself and to your country.

    This is a jaw-droppingly perfect analogy.

  20. …and the thin ones he can find are gay and that’s just obviously unacceptable.

    But fabulous!!

    I was eating about 500 calories less than would supposedly be required for me to merely remain motionless and alive, and less than half what I should have been eating to supposedly maintain my activity level.

    I did that once as one of my millions of diets with the same results. I ended up on a “plateau” that lasted for two months, and then I started to gain again… while dieting.

    In my family the men are skinny guys who eat all the time and bitch about the fat women who hardly eat at all.

  21. Buffy,
    I was just arguing with my friend about this over the weekend. (She’s just so worried about my health you know. It’s funny that she’s not worried about anything else, like my financial well being, since, y’know t I can’t afford to pay my gas bill, but I should buy extra plane tickets just to come see her senior recital. Whoa… I’m so bitter. /rant)

    Anyway, I was saying that from an evolutionary perspective it actually makes less sense to be thin. It makes more sense to conserve energy in the form of fat to allow ones self to survive in environments where resources are scarce. People who gain weight easily are actually more energy efficient than people like Lance Armstrong. (And I”m SOOO all about efficiency.)

    Shorter me: If there’s a famine, my fat boyfriend and I will be fine while your skinny ass starves. I’m just worried about your health.

  22. So so SO many things come to mind reading this.

    For one, I can vouch for the being poor and being fat thing. For two years (yes, I said years), I ate nothing but one meal a day. Was it a fairly big meal? Yes, but nothing like what a person should eat in an entire day of “normal” eating. Why did I do this? Because eating more than one meal a day made me feel like I was taking food out of my kids’ mouths to feed myself. We were extremely poor, and if I’d spent more than my budget on food, we would have had to give up something else important. Like… I dunno… say… electricity and gas? Sure, we could eat more regularly and healthy, but only if we were willing to not be able to store any food and/or freeze to death. Did I lose any weight whatsoever? Fuck no. As a matter of fact, I somehow managed to GAIN weight.

    And I know almost-first-hand about the military and their so-called “standards.” My sister is in the army, has been for 10 years now. She’s currently in the national guard over by y’all in Illinois, and the last time we talked (a couple of weeks ago), she was telling me about how her “supervisors aren’t happy about her weight.” She’s about 5’6″ and weighs 150 TOPS. No way in hell could she be lumped into the same category as me (i.e. FAT), but she’s “too fat” for their liking. So every time she has some sort of fitness test, they are constantly harping on her about her weight.

    AND…

    I can also relate to the “different bodies, different metabolisms” theory (should we even CALL it a theory? Methinks not). My husband – as I may have mentioned before, so if I’m repeating myself, I apologize – is one of those disgustingly lucky people who could literally eat a pound of lard and not gain an ounce. In the eight years that we’ve been together, he MIGHT have put on an entire 10 pounds. But this man eats and eats and eats and sits on his ass all day playing computer games – and he’s still so skinny that I swear, if he turned sideways I wouldn’t be able to find him! Me? I’m the one that walks the kids to and from school, does all the shopping, runs all the errands (pay bills, etc.), cleans the house from top to bottom, cooks every day, does the laundry, AND takes care of our 12-year old special needs child who can’t do a single thing for herself. And no matter how I change my eating habits and/or exercise habits, I don’t lose weight AT ALL.

    Oh, but if I starved myself, I’d become thin, right?

    coughBULLSHITcough

  23. I can also relate to the “different bodies, different metabolisms” theory (should we even CALL it a theory? Methinks not)

    Even the people who actually tout “calories in-calories out” don’t really believe there’s no such thing as different metabolisms. They are always perfectly happy to accept the phenomenon of the person who can eat whatever s/he wants and not gain weight. The only thing they disbelieve is that metabolism can keep you at a fat weight just as easily as it can keep you at a skinny one.

  24. Carmona says: … obesity is one of the most common reasons servicemen cannot fully perform their duties.

    Sounds like we have fat people in the military already – or did they join, and then get fat?

    Wait a minute – you mean all that exercise makes you fat?

    Now I’m really confused… or (more likely) Carmona is.

  25. They are always perfectly happy to accept the phenomenon of the person who can eat whatever s/he wants and not gain weight. The only thing they disbelieve is that metabolism can keep you at a fat weight just as easily as it can keep you at a skinny one.

    This can’t be said enough.

  26. Ya know, back when i graduated from high school, I wanted to join the Air Force. At that time, a woman 5′ 9″ had to weigh less than 150 lbs in order to enlist (I was 5′ 9″ and 175). However, men who were no more than 30 lbs over their ideal weight, according to the AF, could join, they just had to do it on the AF chubby plan (I forget what it was called, I’ve slept a few times since 1972). I don’t know if that still applies, but if it doesn’t, that could be one of the reasons they have fewer men enlisting (and still not a lot of women, they don’t meet the weight criteria, which are ridiculous). Seems to me that if someone who is carrying an extra 30 lbs can’t lose it in boot camp, but can keep up with their thinner counterparts in the training, then obviously, they are fit enough to be in the armed forces.
    Heaven forbid that that should be true though, because then what would happen to the OMGOBESITYEPIDEMIC!!!
    I had a friend tell me the other day that no matter how physically strenuous your job is, it doesn’t count as exercise (tell that to my DH who moves anywhere from 20 to 60 TONS of soy milk every day at work). Hell, he’s had 18 year-old kids come in to work with him and they can’t keep up, they say the work is too hard (DH is 51 and a type 2 diabetic who is carrying 73 lbs more than the BMI calculator says he should to be at the top end of normal). Just goes to show you can’t tell by looking at someone how fit (or unfit) they are.

  27. I had a friend tell me the other day that no matter how physically strenuous your job is, it doesn’t count as exercise

    OMGWTF?? If you’re getting exercise at your job, it magically doesn’t increase your fitness? Is that like how calories don’t count on vacation?

  28. If you’re getting exercise at your job, it magically doesn’t increase your fitness?

    No, of course not. Exercise is what buff-looking people do while wearing special clothes at an expensive gym or in a well-manicured park.

    Activity doesn’t count if you’re wearing regular clothes, making money, getting something practical done at the same time or… are fat.

  29. no matter how physically strenuous your job is, it doesn’t count as exercise

    What does that even mean? It’s amazing the amount of cognitive dissonance people can stand — or even cultivate — when it comes to ZOMGOBESITY!11

  30. Exercise doesn’t count if you’re enjoying it or getting paid for it, duh. That’s why kids should work out (good!) instead of playing outside (dangerous!).

    Not sure how this all dovetails with the plots to bribe employees to lose weight, though. Good god, every time I try to espouse an anti-fat viewpoint, I run up against a contradiction! How could this be?!

  31. Argh. It makes me so mad when I encounter people who steadfastly insist that being “big boned” or having a “slow metabolism” are just fanciful excuses cooked up by the fat, dumb and lazy. I knew a guy in school whose metabolism was so crazy fast, he needed to eat constantly. He was intensely thin, and very twitchy and active, and he went to school with powerbars in his pockets, and ate enormous lunches. Nobody ever accused him of fabricating his speedy metabolism. And really, what could they say? “You don’t have a fast metabolism. You’re just… a robot. Yeah. You’re only pretending to eat! Well, I got news for you buddy, REAL people don’t eat that often.”

    We have ridiculous characters like Cartman to bring down the big-boned in our society. Never mind that my wrist bone is twice the width of yours- I’m clearly fat, embarrassed, and making excuses.

  32. vesta44, also, it sounds like the tone of that ludicrously incorrect statement may have been along the lines of lecturing you, as a fat person, as to what constitutes “exercise.” e.g. “Don’t think your strenuous job is an EXCUSE not to work out!” Because they can tell by looking at you and your DH how many calories you take in and expend every day, don’t you know. You are fat, therefore a strenuous job must not be enough exercise. QED. Grrr….

    When I used to do field work, depending on what I was doing, I was often too tired to go to the gym as usual after work. Having experienced both, I have no doubt that a whole day of keeping my balance wading through streams and walking on uneven banks, in mud, etc. or walking from place to place and opening heavy manhole covers all day, burned as many or more calories as my typical 4-mile run or hour on the elliptical or whatever. I mean, not that it matters, and you already know that, but I am just ranting because know-it-alls (who actually know nothing whatsoever) like the one you describe are SO ANNOYING.

  33. Never mind that my wrist bone is twice the width of yours- I’m clearly fat, embarrassed, and making excuses.

    Speaking of the “modeling bad body image for your children” discussion going on in the other thread, my mom once wrote in an article that she wasn’t big-boned because “my wrists are the smallest parts of my body.” I was like “mom, EVERYBODY’S wrists are the smallest parts of their bodies. The question is whether your wrists are bigger than OTHER PEOPLE’S WRISTS.” (In fact hers are not, but she’s also not fat and I don’t get my fat or my extremely sturdy frame from her. She’s broken her arm twice; I’ve never broken one of my hefty bones in my life.) I hope that line didn’t make it out of the draft, but knowing my mom at the time, I bet it did.

  34. FJ, that is too funny. We should show her my wrists next to a bigger-boned but thinner woman’s wrists — it would blow her mind!

  35. We should show her my wrists next to a bigger-boned but thinner woman’s wrists — it would blow her mind!

    For a second I thought you meant thinner than my mom, and I was like “ok, you go find one, I will wait here.”

    But shit, yeah, we can show her your wrists next to HER wrists. She may not be remotely big-boned but she’s got bigger bones than YOUR ass!

  36. Fillyjonk, with all due respect for your mother’s intelligence, BWAH!

    And as a small-boned fatty (my wrists are indeed thinner than many thin people’s, in addition to being the smallest parts of my body), the “Big-boned is just an excuse!” people irritate the fuck out of me, too, because I NEVER SAID I WAS. Couldn’t you at least take the time to find a stereotype I actually sound like?

  37. the “Big-boned is just an excuse!” people irritate the fuck out of me, too, because I NEVER SAID I WAS.

    And I have, and I am, but I’ve certainly never said that’s why I’m fat! It’s part of why people think I weigh less than I do, but my fat is not bone, nor is the reverse true, and I know enough about anatomy to say so.

  38. But shit, yeah, we can show her your wrists next to HER wrists.

    If only we had thought of this when we were 15!

  39. You know, funnily enough, I’m one of the bigges-boned people I know (the only one I can think of offhand who has bigger bones than me is my taller, fatter best friend – she’s got wrists the size of my ankles, I swear), but nobody’s ever accused me of using that as an “excuse.”

    ‘Course, I’ve never tried to use it as one (my statments to that effect are usually something along the lines of “I’m big-boned AND fat”), but still…

  40. And, I mean, it IS an “excuse” (of course, imagine that word said with extreme sarcasm because I certainly do not believe anyone needs an “excuse” to be the size they are). I come from sturdy Scandinavian stock and have fingers and wrists the size of many men’s (my hands look remarkably like my dad’s, except somewhat less gigantic… funny that… and incidentally I wear basically the same ring size as my 6’3″ thin husband and yes it IS my knuckle and not my obese fingers that are the limiting factor), and wear a size 9 1/2 wide shoe at least. I mean, it makes sense to me that I’m going to be proportioned a little bigger, but what the hell do I know?

  41. Heh. I get the opposite – I’ve got TINY bones/hands/feet, and apparently this means that not only am I not allowed to be fat, but that I somehow owe it to my little bones to get so thin I look like a bird. (Literally, one helpful soul said that I had “elegant, birdlike bone structure” and it would be a shame to hide it.)

    All I could think was, why the hell would I want to be a bird? Unless I could freaking fly, and drop stuff on mean people’s heads from a great distance. That would be the shit. Otherwise, not so much.

  42. Unless I could freaking fly, and drop stuff on mean people’s heads from a great distance. That would be the shit.

    I know this juxtaposition was unintentional but it totally cracked me up. Yes, yes it would.

    (Because what’s the point of being a bird if you can’t poop on people. For serious.)

  43. FJ, I didn’t even see that! Long day. I was thinking more of picking stuff up and dropping it on them but either way, it would be an awesome power to have. :-)

  44. Unless I could freaking fly, and drop stuff on mean people’s heads from a great distance. That would be the shit.

    I know this juxtaposition was unintentional but it totally cracked me up. Yes, yes it would.

    (Because what’s the point of being a bird if you can’t poop on people. For serious.)

    Oh geeze…. now my stomach hurts from laughing…

  45. AnotherKate, good lord. It would be a “shame to hide” your birdlike bone structure? What are people thinking?

    That points out something that it sounded like I was contradicting… of course some people with small bone structure are genetically fat too and some are genetically thin and everything in between. So it is not only us “big-boned” folks who have an “excuse” to be fat. :P I was just thinking of how my immediate family and ancestors and such are not for the most part tiny or delicate people, and we have big ol’ sturdy bones and so on. So why would I be any different? But, you know, BMI is totally reliable for everyone.

  46. SC, I have NO IDEA what the person was thinking who made that comment. To assume that she *was* thinking at all may be giving her too much credit! But it’s nice to give the benefit of the doubt. (I actually don’t happen to be fat, but the “big boned” discussion above totally reminded me of certain silly people commenting that I’m not thin ENOUGH based on the “bird bones.”)

  47. And given that we are rather low on new recruits, and so many believe the military lifestyle is a proven cure for fatness, why not just let fatties into the army and whip ‘em into shape?

    I watched a documentary called “Thin” and if I’m remembering correctly, one of the women suffering from anorexia went into the air force during the middle of the second gulf war to lose weight. I can’t just imagine the recruiter…

  48. That makes me think of the expression ‘eat like a bird’…which always strikes me as weird. Don’t birds eat several times their body weight in a day? Which would, in fact, make them exactly like a lot of the thin ‘bird-like’ people I’ve known!

    Oh, and on exercise and ‘well, you obviously don’t get enough, look at you’….I’m reminded of the time when my mother owned a knitting/kidswear store and used to make regular trips to London, accompanied by teenage me, to stock up on baby clothes at the warehouses. We’d get on the Tube and she’d stand stock still on the escalators while I bounded on up them – I hate waiting for those things to move. Funny, but I always seemed to pass a lot of skinny people who were happy for the escalator to do all the work. When I mentioned how strange this was, my mother was like ‘Oh, well, the skinny people don’t NEED exercise like you do.’

    I could conclude one of several things from this…
    a) my mother is actually psychic and knows the personal habits of people she passes in the street just by looking at them
    b) there are alternative anatomy books I’ve never read that show that thin people don’t have a circulatory system, bones or other vital organs and therefore clearly do NOT need exercise like us fatter souls
    c) the whole correspondence between exercise and weight is a load of, as we like to say, cobblers.
    Your choice.

  49. b) there are alternative anatomy books I’ve never read that show that thin people don’t have a circulatory system, bones or other vital organs and therefore clearly do NOT need exercise like us fatter souls

    BWAH! I pick that one!

  50. Emerald, I LOVE the expression “eat like a bird” for that very reason. (Also, worms? Bleargh.) I think what they really want us to do is “eat the same AMOUNT a bird eats, even if the bird weighs four ounces.”

  51. I’ve always noticed that if I measure my wrists when I’m fat they’re bigger than if I measure them when I’m thin. I wonder if my bones grew?

    More seriously how *do* you tell what your bone size is, given a simple wrist measurement has this flaw?

    I’ve got really little hands, but apparently always (even as a toddler) am heavier than I look. I couldn’t tell you if I have big bones or little bones or what.

    I’ve got a big waist though :-)

  52. You touched on one of the “causes of obesity” among “teh poor” that pisses me off the most. It is the so called access-to-fresh-produce line. It’s not like they don’t truck it into my local Kroger. Oh, it’s accessable. I can look at it, I can admire it, I just can’t AFFORD it.

  53. amgriffin, it’s not accessible for everyone. There are some low-income neighbourhoods that don’t have grocery stores. Since a lot of the residents of those neighbourhoods don’t have cars, they really don’t have access to fresh produce. Now, that’s not to say that access to fresh produce (even affordable fresh produce) would magically make them thin, but it would probably make them healthier.

  54. Eleanor, the fact is that on ANY person’s body, the one part most likely to NOT get any bigger is the wrists. That’s why “they” say to measure your wrists, because 95% of the time, they’re just bones covered with skin. My great-aunt, for example, was a VERY big lady, but her arms tapered down at the wrists and then ended with very chubby hands (come to think of it, she had pretty big bones, too… methinks I know where my big bone structure comes from).

  55. And amgriffin, I’m right there with you. In my ideal world, I’d buy everything fresh and cook everything from scratch. But I’d have to spend in one week what I spend in an entire month on food right now, and that

    Ain’t.

    Gonna.

    Happen.

  56. My hands, wrists, feet and ankles stay pretty much the same size no matter how fat or slim I’ve been. And that size is BIG. I am only 5’1″ but I can easily play tenths on a piano, and I have size 10 feet. And my skull is big, I can never fit into “ladies’” hats.

    Also have never broken anything despite years of pelting madly about the place on bikes and horses and ice skates and skis with the resultant fair share of spills ‘n’ thrills.

    (I love the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them I love skiing. Fat people…skiing?!?!?! Why yes, and it’s particularly fun that my weight lets me whizz past the skinny ski bunnies down the hillside. Hooray for momentum and that physics stuff that is too hard for my fatty brain to comprehend.)

  57. I’ve never tried to calculate how much fatter my wrists get. Possibly it’s not as much so as the rest of me does. But I could fit my fingers round my wrist when I was thin and they’re nearly a cm from touching now. Perhaps its just my fingers being chubbier…

    17.8 cm. I’ll make a note and report back if I’m ever unexpectedly slim again :-)

  58. Hmm, according to wrist measurement I come out as large framed (> 5’5″ and > 165mm).

    But according to elbow breadth (61mm as close as I can make out). I’m a medium frame, and at the low end of that. Hmm, I’ve just measured again and come out at 73mm – which makes me large again. I don’t think I’m going to be able to take this measurement accurately enough to tell without a proper set of calipers, and someone to explain where the “narrow bit” is.

    http://www.am-i-fat.com/body_frame_size.html

    I’m still fat :-)

  59. >>Maybe poor people should try to be richer. It’s a simple money in -money out scenario.

    OMGLOLBBQ

    I love you Kate Harding and associates. Just thought I’d be a creepy stalker and say big thanks for this blog. You made my day. Again.

  60. kate, I love you – this post is brilliant. I wish I were half as geniusy as you. :)

    I especially love the Toyota/preggo/diabetes bit at the end…it reminded me of when I was a kid, listening to my aunt tell my newly-separated mother that it only SEEMED like every song on the radio was a break-up song….

  61. Buffy, the Corollas/pregnant woman are examples of relevance bias (when something is relevant to you, you’re more likely to notice it). I’m sure that Sandy’s discussed it at least once although I can’t find it at the moment.

  62. Hmmmm. According to Eleanor’s “Am I Fat” link I’m part Clydesdale – 5′ 1″ and measure 61/2 inches around my bony wrists.

    I suspect those figures were asspulled.

  63. Oh, KH, I knew you would come through for me as soon as I read Dr. Douche’s latest round of fatastrophizing. This isn’t the first time Carmona has pulled the fat=terrorism card, though why it’s getting any ink now that he’s not the AG is testament to a paid media that just can’t get enough fat bashing in any form. Hey doc…I got a simple four-word answer to your “problem.” LET GAY PEOPLE SERVE. There. All fixed.

    Oh, and this?

    And given that we are rather low on new recruits, and so many believe the military lifestyle is a proven cure for fatness, why not just let fatties into the army and whip ‘em into shape? What’s up with those body fat standards in the first place? Exercise makes fat people thin! Sure, the fatties would have to spend a bit longer in training, but politically, it’s still a winner! No need for a draft, AND the government would be forcing poor people to lose weight by controlling their every move! WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

    Classic. And triple word points on the class issues. I’m so sure young Barbara and Jenna would get through boot camp with flying colors.

    What I want to know is, can all these so-called fatsos (and skinnies — my XBF was once classified by the army as “underweight” at 6’3″ and 170, although they still let him hang around until he “bulked up”) really not pass the physicals? Or are they not even being given a chance to because they don’t “look right”?

  64. “Maybe poor people should try to be richer. It’s a simple money in -money out scenario.”

    My god, that is one of the best analogies I’ve seen.

    I have seen people claim not to believe in extreme metabolisms of either type. Claiming that when you’re not looking, they’re not eating. I’m not even going to go there…

    But my god, people are different. My body seems to cling like glue to a very small range. If I try to starve myself below that range, I end up faint and dizzy and incapable of rational (or my usual irrational) thought. We’re talking physically incapable of lifting myself to go get food. This is after 6-7 hours of not eating. On the other end, if I up how much I’m eating, I start packing on the muscle before anything else happens. Clearly, there is a distinct limitation to the calories in – calories out thing going on here.

    I don’t think anyone should feel any compulsion to eat so that it impedes their functioning. Which seems to be what is required to maintain a significant weight loss in pretty much everyone. Maybe there are some people whose systems adjust, but do would we really prefer that a good portion of society is spending 90 minutes a day exercising and eating so little it makes them dizzy and less sharp? Talk about a threat to the economy.

    One thing I would like to see, Kate or anyone else, is specific studies suggesting that dieting or any other cycle of intermittent food restriction leads to weight gain. I don’t mean this as a trollish thing, just that it’s something I 100% believe and I want to know where and how it’s supported, especially as I recall seeing an msnbc health article refuting that wisdom (I am sure now it was a crap study, but didn’t think about it that way at the time). Particularly something that looks at weight before dieting. Yeah, swear, I’m not trying to start anything – just want to be prepared with data in case anyone else ever does. ;)

  65. Meowser, quite a few soldiers over the height/weight maximum pass the physical fitness test without problems. I personally knew an ex-ranger who went up to 5’6″ and 225lbs, but ran just fine with everyone else.

    However, if you fail the height/weight portion, you’ve failed the whole thing, even if you scored perfect on all other categories. Sucks in a big way.

  66. The only thing I can speak of on the military thing is:
    -The military “Forces” people to lose weight, that are above the range they want them at.
    -The military forces these people to lose weight, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE PHYSICALLY ABLE TO PAST THE PHYSICAL FITNESS TEST (Which is usually a mix of running, pushups, and situps) allotted by whatever branch of service.
    -Being fat in the military is considered shameful, and fat people in the military often get court-marshalled, and/or demotion/lack of promotion in rank.
    -Source
    I’m an ex military brat, and this Staff Sergeant in the army replied to one my youtube videos telling me about it. It’s sad, and the fact that there are many fat people in the military that are able to past the test but still get attacked, whilst the people near the range accepted that don’t do well aren’t attacked as much (Although it happens both ways).
    Society is depraved…

  67. How fucking perverse is it that the correlation between poverty and fatness is only considered in terms of social inequality when the country starts running low on cannon fodder?

    This needs to be engraved in stone somewhere.

    And given that we are rather low on new recruits, and so many believe the military lifestyle is a proven cure for fatness, why not just let fatties into the army and whip ‘em into shape? What’s up with those body fat standards in the first place? Exercise makes fat people thin! Sure, the fatties would have to spend a bit longer in training, but politically, it’s still a winner! No need for a draft, AND the government would be forcing poor people to lose weight by controlling their every move! WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

    Don’t give them any ideas!!

  68. Pingback: What is the new “Earth is flat”? « Worth Your Weight

  69. fillyjonk, on November 5th, 2007 at 8:01 pm Said:
    “Maybe poor people should try to be richer. It’s a simple money in -money out scenario.”

    LMF(at)AO…classic!

  70. “No, seriously — for the type of people who think this way about both fat and the poor, what’s not to love? Why haven’t they started actively recruiting fat people? ”

    Jeebus.

    Please don’t give them any ideas.

  71. Which also makes me think that the concept might not be quite as far out there as mine can sometimes be.

    Just ’cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really after you.

    *last post today – sry iz thnkin in frgmntz*

  72. *choking back tears of helpless mirth*

    a friend sent me a link to your blog today, and i could not be happier. whip-smart hilarity, that’s what i look for in reading material.

    thank you for writing about this – someone has to, and in fact lots of people do. but few bother with truth and making the reporting so enjoyable to read.

  73. It seems like the military has a problem with anyone who isn’t a white,male, heterosexual bodybuilder. But like Kate mentioned, it isn’t a recent lack of these people that is the problem but the fact that we are in a war. Did we discriminate based on weight as strongly during Vietnam?

  74. Entangled wrote: “One thing I would like to see, Kate or anyone else, is specific studies suggesting that dieting or any other cycle of intermittent food restriction leads to weight gain.”

    I am pretty sure that Gina Kolata’s book Rethinking Thin describes just such a study, done at Rockefeller University Hospital. I don’t have the book with me to check, but I seem to remember that the study found that severe calorie restriction actually changed the participants’ metabolic rates. Even after they started eating within a normal caloric “maintenance” range after the diet ended, their bodies reacted as though they were starving and they started gaining weight. Based on their metabolisms pre-diet, the amount of calories they were consuming post-diet should have maintained their weight. Instead, it caused them to gain.

  75. Pingback: The-F-Word.org: Conversations on food, fat and feminism » Blog Archive » No more Ho Hos for Santa

  76. My cousin’s son just went into the Marines. He’s not a huge guy but he had to diet before they’d take him. Seemed a little silly to me considering they were just going to put him in basic training where I expect his fitness level is increasing dramatically even as I type.

  77. amgriffin, on November 5th, 2007 at 11:21 pm Said:
    “You touched on one of the ’causes of obesity’ among ‘teh poor’ that pisses me off the most. It is the so called access-to-fresh-produce line. It’s not like they don’t truck it into my local Kroger. Oh, it’s accessable. I can look at it, I can admire it, I just can’t AFFORD it.”

    Do you still try to have lots of fruits and veggies every day? If so, what’s your strategy since you can’t afford it? (Looking for ideas here…thanks :))

  78. Well, obviously, if us fatties are so incapable of fighting because we’re lazy fuckups, and it’s so damn easy to alter your weight, there’s an obvious way to win the war in Iraq: make all the insurgents fat, then they won’t fight their ‘liberators’!

  79. “If you’re getting exercise at your job, it magically doesn’t increase your fitness?

    No, of course not. Exercise is what buff-looking people do while wearing special clothes at an expensive gym or in a well-manicured park.

    Activity doesn’t count if you’re wearing regular clothes, making money, getting something practical done at the same time or… are fat.”

    I work at an insurance company promoting “health” for our members, since healthier members are cheaper members. Anyhow- it is true that we are not to count even the most strenuous of work as “exercise activity” when we conduct our initial assessments. When I point out the classist bias this has, my peers and seniors just laugh at me.

  80. When I point out the classist bias this has, my peers and seniors just laugh at me.

    Of course they do. You’re just promoting class warfare, as are all the people who work two jobs and don’t have a gym membership.

  81. My husband literally starved himself to get into the Navy, and now that he is in he struggles every day to keep his weight down. He’s not a fat guy, but he’s not naturally thin and he barely makes the weight requirements. He has an hour of physical training nearly every morning, including being in the “fat boy program” which means he has to work out more sessions than the other guys. And he doesn’t “eat like a fucking pig.”

    My husband doesn’t do all that because he needs to or because he’s got a drive to be fit or anything, he does it because the “fat boys” are second-class citizens, and they risk being discharged if they don’t adhere to the standards.

    They don’t mind that he (and most) smoke, and they encourage drinking (they have official meetings at the pub on base for some reason), but fat won’t fly.

    As an -actually- fat girl, it really pisses me of to hear my normal sized husband talking about how he needs to starve himself and how he wants me to start buying slim-fast and diet pills for him so he can pass the next PRT.

  82. Do you still try to have lots of fruits and veggies every day? If so, what’s your strategy since you can’t afford it? (Looking for ideas here…thanks :))

    WYW, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh, nutritionally speaking, and they go a lot farther. Canned are fine, too, though you might end up with added sodium or syrup you didn’t want if you don’t read the labels carefully. I cook with frozen veggies a lot and use frozen berries to make smoothies, and I keep Del Monte pineapple cups (in juice with a little added sugar — I’d rather not have that, but they no longer seem to sell them in unsweetened juice) around for snacks.

  83. The whole small/big bone defines what you should weigh argument is baseless…

    I’ve been a size UK8 (god I looked ill) and I’m now a UK22.

    I’m still wearing my Christening bracelet around my right wrist, which I’ve worn since I was a baby. (Ok, so if they wanted me to take it off I couldn’t, because *shockhorror* my hands are adult sized).

    Are they going to tell me my body should therefore be the size it was as a child?

    Idiots.

  84. I’m still wearing my Christening bracelet around my right wrist, which I’ve worn since I was a baby.

    Sweet fancy Moses. You and Sweet Machine had better never have children together. They would instantly snap at the wrists and ankles.

  85. “Sweet fancy Moses. You and Sweet Machine had better never have children together. They would instantly snap at the wrists and ankles.”

    LOL!
    Yeah…before the M.E. descended I was a dancer, Riverdance stuff, you know? You wouldn’t believe how many ankle injuries I had – they’re tiny and totally impractical :oP

    But seriously, I have had someone tell me that I’m obviously meant to be a size zero because OMGLOOKATYOURWRISTS!

  86. I meant to add there that, this is despite the obvious fact I looked horrifically anorexic at a UK size 8.

  87. Nope, it definatly wasn’t a pretty sight for me to be that small.

    Thing is, I don’t see how they can argue that I have to lose weight for the sake of my bones – despite their tiny status, my wrists and ankles don’t actually look at all out of place with my size 22 self.

    Most people don’t realise how small my bones are until they spot that I’m wearing children’s jewelery :oP

  88. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. There’s so much to chew on here. Not enough people examine the link between poverty and health. Although, yes, Virginia, there really are incredibly poor people that don’t know the difference in nutrition between a Big Mac and an apple, right here in my own town. Step into a low income neighborhood sometime, where 2/3 of the inhabitants don’t speak English, or the inhabitants have less than a high-school education and/or make less than $12K a year. Very few of them also have the skills to understand how to best use the tiny amount of money they DO have. However, the reasons you outline here most definitely should be taken into account, as they are at least as likely a causation (of poor health*) as lack of education.

    Also… you win for this: “THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA ” I must use that everywhere I go.

    *So that it’s clear, I don’t equate poor health=THE FAT. But poverty-stricken families are unlikely to have the means to good healthcare, quality exercise programs, nutritional consultations/education, etc. which may effect their overall health.

  89. Although, yes, Virginia, there really are incredibly poor people that don’t know the difference in nutrition between a Big Mac and an apple, right here in my own town. Step into a low income neighborhood sometime, where 2/3 of the inhabitants don’t speak English, or the inhabitants have less than a high-school education and/or make less than $12K a year. Very few of them also have the skills to understand how to best use the tiny amount of money they DO have.

    Okay, A) How DO you use $12,000 a year to its best advantage? Seriously. What, they’re not investing wisely?

    And one doesn’t need to speak English or have more than a high school education to understand the difference between an apple and a Big Mac. I’m still not buying it.

  90. Having lived off of $12,000 a year for a family of three (w/ government assistance, as well), I can tell you that there are ways to put it to good use, and ways to throw it away. It’s quite easy when you have nothing to say “fuck it” and blow what you have on things that aren’t necessities. That is not a judgement against the poor, merely just one of the realities – and I can’t blame them, I’ve been there.

    Regarding education and health…I really think, that if you spend some time in low-income communities, you’d be amazed at what you find. A lot of people equate a Bic Mac as more filling and more nutritious for the same price as 2-3 apples (it’s MEAT! And CHEESE! And BREAD! And LETTUCE! All at once!)

    Honestly, though…I have no proof to show you, only my personal experience, which you may or may not buy, because whoo, it’s the internet, and I could be talking out of my ass. :/ Sorry.

  91. A lot of people equate a Bic Mac as more filling and more nutritious for the same price as 2-3 apples (it’s MEAT! And CHEESE! And BREAD! And LETTUCE! All at once!)

    And… they have a point. If I had a lunch of 2-3 apples, I’d be in hypoglycemic hell within an hour or two. A fast-food burger isn’t the tastiest thing around, but at least the starch and protein keeps hunger pangs away for a while.

  92. Okay, A) How DO you use $12,000 a year to its best advantage? Seriously. What, they’re not investing wisely?

    In many of my classes we talk about how it costs more to be poor. A lot of the ways we ‘save money’ are simply not available to lower income families.

    Simple examples of that are here:

    http://soscs.blogspot.com/2006/07/it-costs-more-to-be-poor.html

    and here (pdf warning)

    http://communityaction.org/PDF%20Files/Legislative%20Info/Costs%20More%20to%20be%20Poor.pdf

    Both talk about mortgages- but I find those who are in poverty frequently have bad or no credit. They can’t even rent a normal apartment or house, but instead end up renting houses in much higher rent-to-own situations, living in higher cost “no credit check” properties, or even living in short term housing, such as weekly motels and transient hostels.

    I could probably go on for many more paragraphs, especially considering I have been in poverty for a long time. It brings out both the Social Worker in me, as well as the frustrated and tired welfare mom.

    But instead of completely hijacking, I will go put it on my own blog- for tomorrows NaBloPoMo :) (I have already written today’s)

    Oh! and Thursday will be about parent Obese children when you have government involvement in your life…. And I thought I would have trouble thinking of posts!

  93. And… they have a point. If I had a lunch of 2-3 apples, I’d be in hypoglycemic hell within an hour or two. A fast-food burger isn’t the tastiest thing around, but at least the starch and protein keeps hunger pangs away for a while.

    Exactly. While I don’t even like hamburgers, if I had a choice between being able to eat two or three apples in a day or the aforementioned hamburger, I would probably pick the hamburger–especially if I worked a long day at a demanding job (or perhaps two or three demanding jobs!) and knew that I wouldn’t see much else in the way of food until the next day.

  94. Ok, I have no clue what this converts to in Dollars, but, I have me, a husband, a five year old stepdaughter and a very fat old cat to feed, on £100 a month.

    That £100 has to cover our food, cat food, cleaning stuff and toiletries.

    I buy “natural” brand cleaning stuff like Ecover, bubble bath and stuff like Radox and I still manage to buy quiche, veg, fruit, bakery bread, cereal, nuts, seeds, hummus, dried fruit, yogurt and decent red and white meat as well as the odd profiterole or donut.

    I can’t afford bus fares, new clothes and occasionally I’m even too broke for buying stamps. But low income being used as a “cause” of obesity? I don’t buy it.

  95. I believe a 100 pounds sterling is about $200 US, at the moment (per this site. And I could eat richly for my now family of four off of that, if I had it. Usually my budget is closer to $160/month, or $40/wk. If I stock up on convienence foods, cook from scratch, use every bit of it wisely, and swear off eating out or compulsory purchases, I’m fine. Otherwise, it can go pretty quickly.

  96. And that, by the way, is in no way shape or form saying it’s easy – believe me, I frequently feel like tearing my hair out on shopping day, just because of the stress of making it all add up.

    But it is just about possible to eat like that if you ridgedly stick to a list. The “poor people eat nothing but burgers” analogy has been used on me way too many times.

    And, just to clarify, I eat like that because I like it and…I’M STILL FAT!!! (So polite raspberries to the fat = not eating healthily mob, lol)

    :o)

  97. What you are describing, alainn, cannot be done in either the neighborhood where I work or where I live. It is literally impossible.

    Hell, hummus alone costs $5 a tub.

  98. 100 GBP=208 USD

    It costs me $500 a month to feed my family of 4 home-cooked meals, plus healthy snacks. That is groceries only- although my oldest has special needs and can not eat anything with food dye and has food allergies.

    I don’t know how you do it. Even before the special diet, our old unhealthy diet cost at least $250-$300 per month.

  99. And the link between poverty and fat isn’t just about junk food, it’s about food uncertaincy. Sometimes the cupboards are full, sometimes they’re bare – the feast or famine is what screws up your metabolism.

    And this is just a theory, anyway, although it’s a pretty compelling one.

  100. Grey, I can completely understand you saying it’s hard and the money can go so quickly – I agree and I have to stick to a shopping list quite harshly to do it.

    My comment wasn’t an attack on you – just my personal experience that low income doesn’t = burger laden couch potato, like some researchers would have people believe :o)

  101. “Hell, hummus alone costs $5 a tub”

    Wow – that sounds extortionate. I do all my shopping in the supermarket (with the exception of bread) and Hummus costs me £0.80 plain, or £1.09 with things in it.

    I guess the cost of living in any particular area has a big effect on things like this…

  102. Also… you win for this: “THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA ” I must use that everywhere I go.

    Just know that I came up with it first. I used it a couple of years ago on BFB. (Sorry, KH, I just had to.)

  103. Cost of living in your area is a HUGE factor. Our hummus costs $5 a tub too (it’s a big tub, it should be mentioned — at least a pint), and that’s at the cheap grocery. Hummus is one of my splurges because I often don’t want to eat anything but hummus or apples or something for dinner. We could do a lot better if we just bought tahini, chickpeas, and lemon juice, but (and don’t tell my dad) even my dad’s homemade hummus recipe is not as good as the $5 stuff.

    I do live in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the country. But hey, I’m lucky I can even get to the cheap grocery that has produce. The closer Shopper’s Food Warehouse barely has any, and is massively stocked with cheap energy sources like candy. And the closest grocery store to our house just shut down. It’s not just price — it’s availability.

  104. And… they have a point.

    Yeah, people have already covered what I would have said about the Big Mac v. 2 apples thing, but it reminds me of a study I blogged about at some point (I think)… people were told they could only eat one food for the rest of their lives, and they had to choose which was most nutritious of spinach, peaches, hot dogs, chocolate, and … something else I don’t remember. In any case, the best answer in terms of comprehensive nutritional value was hot dogs, followed by chocolate. Most people picked spinach or one of the other “healthy” choices.

  105. Just know that I came up with it first. I used it a couple of years ago on BFB. (Sorry, KH, I just had to.)

    Oh, I meant to mention that that totally wasn’t mine! Didn’t know it was yours, though! Nice!

  106. Alainn said: But low income being used as a “cause” of obesity? I don’t buy it.

    Where I live, there are a few low-income grocery stores like Aldi and Save-a-Lot. If you ever go into these stores, you will find a dearth of fresh produce, whole grains and otherwise healthy foods, and an overabundance of cheap, processed foods high in sugar and calories, and low in actual things our bodies need to stay healthy. Not to mention, studies show that fast food places are strategically placed in lower-income areas.

    I think there are people who still don’t know basic nutritional facts (especially illiterate people and non-English speaking immigrants). But it’s not a matter of education; it’s a matter of necessity. If you’re faced with the real possibility of being evicted, or are struggling to pay bills or to provide basic necessities for your children, and/or work two jobs good nutrition isn’t going to top the list of your priorities.

    Processed foods are vastly cheaper than healthier foods and much more dense in calories. A bulk pack of Ramen noodles is not only cheaper, but will go much farther than a $4 box of veggie burgers. And fresh produce and especially organic food is often out of the question entirely when you’re on a fixed income and budget.

    This isn’t the entire reason why lower-class people tend to be more fat – as Kate noted, demographic factors like ethnicity, lack of leisure time, etc… also weigh in (no pun intended). But instead of framing issues the poor face in an obesity framework, what we ought to be doing is looking at it from a health standpoint.

    On a related note, there’s a huge, endlessly fascinating historiography about how the rising numbers of immigrants in the early part of the 20th century greatly contributed to the shift in the perception of fat as revered to fat as reviled. I’ve only scratched the surface in a blog entry here about it.

  107. I just had to throw my two cents (pence?) in here, for what it’s worth.

    I spend roughly £80 a month on food for a family of SIX. There’s no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I could afford all fresh food on THAT budget. So yeah… our diet consists largely of over-processed, over-fillered foods. I do the best I can with the money that I’ve got, but it doesn’t go all that far. I do buy some fresh fruit and veg, but not nearly enough. I really wish I could afford to buy healthier food, but the reality is that I can’t. I’d be willing to bet that if I was able to buy everything fresh and cook it from scratch, I’d probably lose SOME weight. I’d still be fat, though.

  108. Oh, alainn, I didn’t take it as an attack. I don’t believe that the poor exist solely on burgers, either! My point was rather, there is a lack of education among the extremely poor, and I have certainly encountered folks who either don’t know much about nutrition or who either don’t care, given the limited means. And that’s not the cause of the OBESITY EPIDEMIC… but it could likely factor into the state of health among low-income populations (although lack of health insurance and the high cost of healthcare) is probably the bigger culprit.

    I don’t have a health foods store nearby, so finding things like hummus and eco-friendly cleaners requires a 45-mile drive – not sure what that’s saving me (also, vinegar and baking soda are great cleaners and replace most of those). Don’t get me started on organic foods… :P I do my best to eat healthy by eating simply… dried beans are super cheap, buy fresh fruits/veggies in season, seek out the nearly expired bread to freeze for later, etc. It’s just not as easy on a tight budge, which I believe was one of Kate’s points.

  109. “It’s not just price — it’s availability.”

    Yeah, I can understand that FJ. I’m lucky in a way, even though I live in the Scottish Republic of Sheep (I’m kinda in the backwaters of South-west Scotland), there are two competing big name supermarkets at the end of the road.

    They have choice and since they’re forever trying to beat each other for low prices, it’s kind of a winning formula :o)

  110. “Most people picked spinach or one of the other “healthy” choices.”

    There I would have gone against the grain and said chocolate.

    But that’s just because, much as I like what my husband calls “rabbit food”, I’m a total chocaholic!

  111. Sniper, I think you and Kate are on to something with that theory. We’ve definitely gone through cycles of less and more (can’t wait to get a tax return this year…I will restock the pantry!). But also, someone working a physically demanding job who is eating fewer calories probably has a lower metabolism, as well, as the body tries to protect itself from starvation.

  112. I suspect that if the hotdogs came with sourkraut you could probably live forever on the things.

    Not that you’d want to. Eeeeeeegaaahhh!

  113. Ah, glad you didn’t take it as an attack Grey. I do see the point. I think its so dependant on facilities, the choice in the shops, the price in the shops.

    Everyone is going to have a different experience based on that alone I imagine.

    As for the ridiculous prices of organics and such – I agree. I never buy organic veg – I usually cheat and buy frozen actually!
    The only reason I use Ecover is because it’s the only thing I’m not allergic to. Making my own isn’t an option because hubby would never agree to the effort and, as I have M.E, I have to get something he won’t mind using when I can’t do it, lol.

    He’s an awkward soul :o)

  114. Oh, I meant to mention that that totally wasn’t mine! Didn’t know it was yours, though! Nice!

    Heehee, thanks. Oh, it’s entirely possible the idea fairies gave the idea to someone else (maybe even you) independently, they tend to do that. But I do remember using it on BFB and having come by it organically.

    I like hotdogs with sauerkraut. And I’d pick it as my live-on-only-one food, if only because if I ate that much chocolate, my poor irritable bowels would have a fit.

  115. I just thought I’d share, but this is the USDA’s Cost of Food, broken down by levels. They usually put it out monthly, but apparently the most recent is August ’07. It should be clear that this implies that all meals are served/prepared at home.

    For a family of 4, they estimate over $500/mo on the THRIFTY plan.

    Okay, sorry, now we’re WAY off topic.

  116. There are other factors besides cost of living in the correlation between obesity and poverty. Some have already been mentioned, such as the feast/famine issue. I see that in our house. Beginning of the month: Fresh produce, home-cooked – well balanced meals. End of the month: MacNCheese, Ramen, Soups, etc.

    The next factor I can think of is transportation to obtain food. Even food supplement programs require that you come to them, and I live in Phoenix- a city not known for mass transit. Also, food boxes and food supplement programs, such as Wic, are heavy on carbs and protein, light on veggies. We once got 6 boxes of Ho Ho’s in a food box. Rarely did we get truly staple foods.

    Another thing to look at is time and cooking facilities. I currently have a full time course load, internship, 2 children- 1 special needs, and an aging mother. Before I went back to school, I had a full time job, which meant 50-55 hours per week. A little hard to cook. A lot of people have more than 1 job, and need to factor in the transportation time and child care issues. I came home at 6:30 with hungry children and hit the ground running to get something in them by 7 and get them to bed by 8, so we could all get up at 5 am and do it over again. That would be the reason for stopping off at Taco bell for their $.99 menu.

    And if you live in an efficiency, weekly, or poorly maintained home, you might only have a burner or two, and maybe a microwave if you are lucky.

    I also had no control over what my children were eating at school and in care. Has anyone eaten at a school cafeteria lately? I have, and the food, while nutritious and filling, falls far short of what I would feed my children if I had more options.

    And that is just touching lightly on a few issues. I am lucky in that I have support from family and community. I have worked with families with much far less to work with.

    Of course, I am only speaking for the experience of children in the US, where social programs are continually cut and nickel and dimed, and where programs are designed more to keep people out than to help.

    (Sauerkraut gives me the willies too!)

  117. I don’t have a health foods store nearby, so finding things like hummus and eco-friendly cleaners requires a 45-mile drive

    Grey, I totally hear you. Our nearest Trader Joes is thirty minutes away and I go there because of the enviro-friendly cleaners and their selection of fair trade coffee. Also, the choices among crap foods are less so even the yummy stuff doesn’t have weird ingredients. I also think the ‘Obesity Epidemic’ is a shitty scapegoat for the real problem of lack of health care/insurance. It’s infuriating.

  118. Has anyone eaten at a school cafeteria lately? I have, and the food, while nutritious and filling, falls far short of what I would feed my children if I had more options.

    Are you suggesting that a diet of pizza, orange slices, and blue jello isn’t optimal?

    That’s what we had in our cafeteria yesterday. We have a rule that the kids must have three items on their trays and take a milk. This means that a lot of fruit and milk is thrown in the trash.

  119. kateharding, on November 6th, 2007 at 3:10 pm Said:
    “WYW, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh, nutritionally speaking, and they go a lot farther. Canned are fine, too, though you might end up with added sodium or syrup you didn’t want if you don’t read the labels carefully. I cook with frozen veggies a lot and use frozen berries to make smoothies, and I keep Del Monte pineapple cups (in juice with a little added sugar — I’d rather not have that, but they no longer seem to sell them in unsweetened juice) around for snacks.”

    Thanks for the suggestions, Miss Kate! Much appreciated.

    BTW, I also agree with you that no matter how uneducated or poor someone is, I guarantee you she knows that a Big Mac isn’t considered healthy.

    Sniper, on November 6th, 2007 at 5:49 pm Said:
    “‘A lot of people equate a Bic Mac as more filling and more nutritious for the same price as 2-3 apples (it’s MEAT! And CHEESE! And BREAD! And LETTUCE! All at once!)’

    And… they have a point. If I had a lunch of 2-3 apples, I’d be in hypoglycemic hell within an hour or two. A fast-food burger isn’t the tastiest thing around, but at least the starch and protein keeps hunger pangs away for a while.”

    I second this 100 percent. A Big Mac can be the most nutritious choice for someone who can only afford to have one $3 meal that day. It has all of the food groups, and the higher fat content would leave one feeling more satiated.

    For someone who can’t afford to go to the movies or on vacation, a Big Mac can also be a (valid, IMO) form of entertainment. Two birds with one stone.

    P.S. For the record, I’m pro-sauerkraut :)

  120. Oh no no no. I enjoy this blog so much. I can’t believe you wasted irretrievable moments of your life responding to ANYONE who routinely feels the need to “demonstrate his intelligence” by any means whatsoever. Dear heart, no matter how important the subject, infantile posturing should never be rewarded… he’s probably been wanking to your response ever since you posted it.

    Next time, extract his objectionable ideas and refute them without giving him any personal credit – you’ll probably be able to hear the top of his pointy little head exploding. Come to think of it, ever since Silence of the Lambs, I’ve wondered if it’s actually possible to induce someone to swallow his own tongue…

  121. We have a rule that the kids must have three items on their trays and take a milk. This means that a lot of fruit and milk is thrown in the trash.

    **headdesk headdesk headdesk**

    OK, who wants to bet that the next thing on the agenda of Childhood Obesity Hysterics is forcing kids to eat their fruits and veggies and drink their milk, every last bite, every last swallow, before being allowed to leave the cafeteria? I mean, they really haven’t gone far enough yet to ensure that kids won’t touch the stuff ever again the minute they turn 18.

  122. @Meowser
    That reminds me of when I was in elementary school we were not forced to eat our veggies but the consequence of not doing so was that you did not get to have chocolate milk (which was only served on Fridays). Didn’t do a thing for me…was still a fat kid and I am still a fat adult.

  123. Krista, thank you so much for the post outlining some of the issues re: poverty and healthy eating. I personally don’t care about links between poverty and obesity, because I believe a lot of that is due to genetics and social factors (i.e. fat people have more difficulty getting hired for good jobs, etc.). But the links between poverty and eating habits definitely hit me. As someone who has recently dedicated herself to eating more healthily, I have found it to be extremely difficult! I am poor, on food stamps (they don’t give me much), and responsible for the groceries for a family of 4.

    Krista, your post actually brought tears to my eyes, because there are so many issues I hadn’t even realized before. Issues that are having a profound impact on my life, and it’s so….unfair! I don’t mean to whine but it just ain’t right.

    Some have already been mentioned, such as the feast/famine issue. I see that in our house. Beginning of the month: Fresh produce, home-cooked – well balanced meals. End of the month: MacNCheese, Ramen, Soups, etc.

    No one gets that, not even my family members who don’t have to do the shopping. That’s exactly how it is. I just did the big shop for the month. Got a good amount of produce, although not as much as I’d like to afford. Home-cooked meals. Tomorrow’s dinner: hearty beef stew. Two weeks ago, at the end of October, it was hot dogs for dinner. Rice A Roni if we’re lucky (requires meat, which is expensive, and the fattiest portions are the cheapest). Then there are snacks. Fresh fruit costs more than cookies. A package of cookies lasts longer than a bunch of bananas.

    In addition to the produce problem, there’s the seafood problem. Everyone says eat more seafood if you want to be healthier. Seafood is extremely expensive.

    The next factor I can think of is transportation to obtain food.

    Yes, yes, yes, and this is one of those things I hadn’t thought about. I can’t afford a car, so I have to rely on public transportation. The closest food source is the “corner store”, a convenience store where everything is more expensive (this is where I use the food stamps, I save the cash for the “big shop”). The nearest grocery store is not near public transportation, and it’s way too far to walk and come back with groceries. The closest Fresh Grocer type of store is across town, and I live in a big town. BJ’s and Sam’s Club are out in the suburbs, also not close. So when I want supermarket goods, I have two options:

    1. Get a ride. Usually can only get one on Saturday……when all of the sales are off (most sales seem to go from Sunday-Friday).
    2. Order online (and I’m thankful for that option). This is very expensive. You have to pay delivery fees and the only supermarkets that use online delivery are the more expensive ones. Also, they require minimum orders, usually of $50. Yet because of my limited transportation options, I do this more often than I’d like.

    I’ve tried clipping coupons, but maybe it’s just me….they are never anything I’d usually buy. The coupons seem to be for new products. Where do people get coupons for the stuff they actually buy? I look in the Sunday paper which has the most coupons. Is there somewhere else I should be looking?

    And if you live in an efficiency, weekly, or poorly maintained home, you might only have a burner or two, and maybe a microwave if you are lucky.

    I have an old stove, with two working burners. And I do have a microwave. Microwave means more convenience foods. Frozen salisbury steaks and sloppy joes. The stove is a real hassle to use. It’s a lot of work for little benefit.

    A Big Mac can be the most nutritious choice for someone who can only afford to have one $3 meal that day.

    Exactly! I’m sorry, but I often go without so that my family will have food. And I’m not the only one. Sometimes at least two of us go without so the other two can eat. Many, many, MANY times I only eat one meal a day. It had better be a filling one. And I honestly am not a big fan of fast food, it upsets my stomach. But fried chicken is FILLING.

  124. Oh, dear. I have made someone cry :( I am sorry the post resonated, because that means we have lived similar lives. While I am at a much better place now, I have been the continuum from homeless to middle class in the last 15 years.
    I am told I will make an excellent Social Worker because I understand what it is like to struggle.

    I like your reframing of the Poverty and Obesity into Poverty and Healthy Eating. I think it is a much better term. Thank you for pointing it out.

    And yes, fast food is filling, and gives you more time to actually spend with your children- which, when you are dealing with poverty- is often a rare and precious thing.

  125. And yes, fast food is filling, and gives you more time to actually spend with your children- which, when you are dealing with poverty- is often a rare and precious thing.

    That reminds me of something. Back when we still lived in the US, I worked… a LOT. I’m talking 50-60 hours a week, every week. And it was still only barely enough to get by. But every once in a while, I would take one of my kids – just one – out for dinner somewhere (McD’s, Booger Fling, Taco Hell, etc.) for what I called a “Mommy and Me” day. I worked so much that a lot of times I would only have half an hour a day with my kids, so for me, this was one way of making up for that. I thought it was a good thing.

    But you know what? I bet “they” would say I was encouraging my kids to be FAT!

  126. “That doesn’t mean there’s an increase in the number of children who have it — especially with something like Type 2 diabetes, which we know often goes undiagnosed for years. It just means you’ve noticed something you never noticed before. Since we don’t have any fucking long-term data on the actual incidence of Type 2 in children, because nobody used to test children for it, it is impossible to say whether there’s been an increase, a decrease, or no change.”

    Some of them are being misdiagnosed, this study excluded anyone needing insulin within the first six months after diagnosis and still found cases of other types. (There are more than 2 types)

    http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/26/7/2088

  127. “OK, who wants to bet that the next thing on the agenda of Childhood Obesity Hysterics is forcing kids to eat their fruits and veggies and drink their milk, every last bite, every last swallow, before being allowed to leave the cafeteria? I mean, they really haven’t gone far enough yet to ensure that kids won’t touch the stuff ever again the minute they turn 18.”

    Oh gosh, Meowser…at my infant through primary school (that’s like first to ninth grade) we HAD to eat everything on our plates. Depending on how mean the dinner monitors were feeling, you might get made to sit in the hall all afternoon with that plate of cold, congealed stew until you did eat it. The salads at our school were particularly vile, and they were slathered in non-optional salad cream, which literally made me gag. The result was that I really did become that awful slang term for a fat person this side of the pond, a ‘salad-dodger’, for years. The irony is I love salad now that I can choose what to put in it. (I am left with a lifelong loathing of beetroot, though.)

    And BTW, as a result of this policy I also barely ate lunch at all from the ages of roughly 4 to 7. When someone brought this to my mother’s attention, I started on packed lunches, and that was when I started being the fat kid. If it takes skipping lunch every day of my life to make me a ‘normal’ size, they know where they can stick it.

  128. Hey Kate (or anyone else who knows, please jump in) — doesn’t the canning process leach some of the vites out of the veggies or something?

    Although I buy canned bamboo and watercress on the regular, I’ve always struggled with the canned thing b/c I could never get a straight answer from a nutritionist about it.

  129. Hey Kate (or anyone else who knows, please jump in) — doesn’t the canning process leach some of the vites out of the veggies or something?

    Although I buy canned bamboo and watercress on the regular, I’ve always struggled with the canned thing for green vegetables b/c I could never get a straight answer from a nutritionist about it.

  130. Littlem, I’d have to go back to The Gospel of Food to be sure about this one, but my understanding is that canned and frozen vegetables can sometimes contain more nutrients, because fresh stuff is losing nutrients every minute it’s off the tree/vine/whatev. Your fresh green beans might have spent a couple days in transit to the grocery store, then a couple days in your fridge before you use them, whereas the frozen/canned veggies were processed, and the nutrients preserved, when they were much fresher than that.

    I think that when you break it down according to particular vitamins, fresh comes out ahead in some cases, frozen or canned in others. But it kinda all evens out. (When comparing supermarket produce to processed stuff, anyway. If you can grow fresh stuff yourself or get to a local farm where it was picked that day, that’s still your best option, nutritionally. But not practical for many.) The bottom line is, if you can’t afford fresh produce, you can certainly get the same basic nutrition from frozen or canned.

    I’m no fan of big food companies, but I honestly think people get a little hysterical about the nutritional superiority of fresh produce — and I suspect there’s a weird combination of anti-corporate values (yay) and a vaguely classist ick factor (boo) behind it.

  131. Oh gosh, Meowser…at my infant through primary school (that’s like first to ninth grade) we HAD to eat everything on our plates.

    In the second grade I was hospitalized for a week with strep throat and scarlet fever. After I was released, I was told not to eat dairy foods for a while, because of the medication I was on. I had a teacher who MADE me eat the school lunch of pizza (it was a Friday and there were no other options). I ate it, and attended a church sleep-over event that evening and got so sick and nauseous my parents had to come get me.

    As we got older though, no one at the school cared what we ate. In high school, my lunch was often an order of fries and mayonnaise.

  132. In my highschool, we had a seperate cafeteria for seniors, full of more expensive, less nutritious items, like buffalo wings and other dripping with sauce pseudo-meats. It drove me nuts that all the teachers prowling around the lunchroom would put the smackdown on any loud talking, or offensive language, but didn’t care if a student wasn’t eating lunch, or was having three chocolate chip cookies and a soda. I’m not saying they should have enforced anything- but you know, a gentle reprimand would at least give an illusion of nutritional-anything being monitored.

  133. I read once, I think it was in Dr. Dean Edell’s book Eat, Drink and Be Merry, that some canned veggies actually had more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Canned pumpkin was one of those, in case you’re interested. It probably varies a lot depending on the source of each and the nature of each item being canned.

    Anyway, I’m more interesting in whether the canning process makes the veggies taste like ass than anything else. I won’t touch canned peas or carrots for that reason, but I won’t turn my nosey up at frozen ones.

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