The New Yorker presents: bizarro fat acceptance!

A respected science writer of my acquaintance, who is not part of the fat acceptance movement but has been writing for a long time about the increasing research that complicates our stereotypes about fat and fat people, recently pitched an article to the New Yorker about the burgeoning field of fat studies. A new and contentious scholarly field seems like a pretty natural topic choice for the New Yorker, but they rejected the idea very politely, saying that it wasn’t really for them.

This seems somewhat less surprising now that I’ve read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book review “XXXL.” This is one of those zeitgeisty New Yorker reviews, where they look at a pile of related or semi-related works that have come out recently. In this case, it’s on the subject of why people are fat — or, if you prefer to unhitch fat bodies from gluttony, why people are given to overeat. Hilariously, it opens with Katherine Flegal discovering that the population gained weight in the 1980s — you know, the same Flegal who later added that this wasn’t necessarily a problem. But from the rest of the article, I’m guessing that if anyone told Kolbert about that study, she put her fingers in her ears and went “la la la stop trying to make me gain weight.”

The piece throws around some scary-sounding statistics — in ten years, Americans gained more than a billion pounds, or a gut-busting 3.3 pounds per person per year over the course of ten years! (thanks Meowser for checking my math) — and settles on saying that “Men are now on average seventeen pounds heavier than they were in the late seventies, and for women that figure is even higher: nineteen pounds.” Nineteen pounds is roughly the difference between these women and these women, or between her and her, or between Jen and Ginny. And, of course, a huge cohort of individual people are individually 19 pounds heavier than they were in the 1970s, because they’ve all hit middle age. But, you know, whoooooa, terrifying epidemic.

Still, we have gained some weight as a population, at least at the heavier end, and we do have different eating habits than we used to, though people who think they’re unequivocally better worse (whoops!) are living in a nostalgia-gilded fantasy land. There’s not too much negative judgment in evidence as Kolbert discusses recent books picking apart our modern way of eating, which tends heavily towards the processed, the convenient, and the sweet. The books she looks at discuss the evolutionary, financial, psychological, and industry-driven reasons why the population as a whole might be eating food in larger portions, and might be inclined to eat fatty, salty, and calorie-dense foods. Kolbert gives no nod towards the fact that these foods don’t magically become nutritious once you’re below a certain BMI — throughout, she conflates fat bodies with what have come to be understood as fat behaviors — but the discussion is an interesting one. The books put forth different reads on the modern food landscape, sometimes complementary and sometimes mutually exclusive, but after all it’s a book review; the piece stands as an overview of current popular research, not as a scientific consensus. As an overview, it’s thought-provoking at the very least.

Then she gets to “The Fat Studies Reader,” which was evidently shoehorned into a piece where it doesn’t remotely belong (fat studies, I probably don’t need to tell you, isn’t really about the evolutionary psychology of eating) and clearly isn’t wanted. Suddenly, Kolbert feels qualified to offer dismissive analysis where she’d previously been satisfied to treat the experts as experts — or perhaps I’m using the term “analysis” too loosely. Among the rather jaw-dropping claims: fat scholars advocate “putting on weight [as] a subversive act,” the fat studies field “oppos[es] the sorts of groups that advocate better school-lunch programs and more public parks,” and saying that some people are naturally heavier than others amounts to almost the same thing as saying that some people are meant to be poor. As my writer friend, who has seen pre-publication excerpts of the book, put it: “My guess is that she didn’t read much beyond the foreword.”

I haven’t read even that much, I must admit. But even sight unseen, one thing I feel I can say with confidence about “The Fat Studies Reader” is that IT IS A READER. Readers are anthologies of scholarly work designed to show the scope of a theoretical field. Some pieces probably do take radical positions, ones that would be too radical for most of us to stand behind completely, or that stand in direct contradiction to our ideas about what fat acceptance means; others show more measured viewpoints, and some might be too conservative for many of us (for instance, fat academic Corinna Tomrley has criticized Susie Orbach’s important but early “Fat is a Feminist Issue” as being essentially a diet book). Kolbert’s reaction is akin to flipping through a feminist studies reader and coming away with the idea that feminists think all heterosexual sex is rape.

How disappointing that a mainstream, usually thoughtful publication acknowledges fat acceptance, but then describes a movement that none of us would recognize. How disappointing that the usually scrupulous Kolbert couldn’t justify the minimal amount of effort it would have taken to get a more representative idea of the movement as it stands. Reading the entire book she’s purporting to review would have been a start.

(On the other hand, this Talk of the Town piece in the same issue is pretty much the pinnacle of the medium and will probably be back as a Friday Fluff. Dear NYer publishers: you guys can stop that feature now, except for Hendrik Hertzberg. It’s peaked.)

Edited to fix ambiguous phrasing, thanks withoutscene.

78 thoughts on “The New Yorker presents: bizarro fat acceptance!

  1. That’s most of what she does, and she’s good at it! She reads the books and everything! I wonder if they really did shoehorn this in at the last second — “Elizabeth, I know we’re going to press tomorrow, but your article is way too measured and interesting, could you get pissed about something for a few grafs? You don’t have to read it or anything, just guess.”

  2. OMG, I could write an entire deconstruction about the graphic that accompanies that article on-line: A feature-less fatty whose apetites are both sexual and food driven being portrayed as a grotesque monster.

    EEK!

  3. Wait, are we eating more on average? I seem to remember that we’re overall eating about the same amount as in past decades, except women are eating slightly less now. No question that popular foods and overall diets have changed, though. No way am I eating that thing in that picture!

    Now I kind of want to put on weight as a subversive act, though.

  4. spinsterwitch, not only all that, but the ‘monster’ looks to me to also be a woman of color – indeed, one of many colors – one who’s all hands, mouth and (carefully concealed) crotch, and *of course* it’s the hot dog that’s positioned by her open maw.

    Way to go, New Yorker. I always knew you had it in you.

  5. That picture is part of a whole slideshow! I’m partial to “133 Recipes with Lard!”

    I don’t know if we’re eating more; we do eat differently than we did a few decades ago, if only because there are foods manufactured now that weren’t manufactured then, and overall it is interesting to think about why we have a taste for sweet and/or fatty foods. It is very interesting, though, that the article — and probably the books do this too — sets up the argument that we eat more by showing that we’re fatter. The conflation goes both ways.

  6. I didn’t initially see it as representing a woman of color, probably because the skin tones are not from any human color palette, but withoutscene at Big Fat Blog did and offers analysis.

  7. I’m so glad you wrote this–when I read the New Yorker review this morning, I was very disappointed. Please send a letter to the editor explaining what you think fat acceptance is and how “health at any size” works. You are spot on in this critique.

  8. We definitely eat differently, and it’s interesting to delve into why that’s the case. I was thinking of this JFS article summarizing NHANES results that found people eating less overall than they used to, particularly women. (I remembered it because August 2008 was in the brief window when I had the blog in my feed.)

    I can’t find that slideshow. And now I really want to see what 133 recipes with lard looks like!

  9. Oh it’s comparing to ~2001, not the ’70s. There must be some articles out there talking about that comparison, too, but I don’t remember reading them, so I don’t know what the differences are.

  10. Oh THAT picture, the one I referred to! Ha, I thought you were talking about the New Yorker. I saw the picture of the “meat” was part of a slide show, but hadn’t had time to look at them all yet.

  11. Those girls who weigh 117 and 125 must be pretty small boned because I nursed an elderly woman who was 5’2 and 116 and she was emaciated. Hmm.

  12. Lidon, fyi, if that had been your first comment it wouldn’t have gotten through. Offering commentary and speculation on other women’s bodies and weights isn’t considered a valid contribution here.

  13. and saying that some people are naturally heavier than others amounts to almost the same thing as saying that some people are meant to be poor

    OFFS

    Fantasy of Being Thin, much? Talk about not being able to separate size from everything else you ever associated size with.

    *sigh*

  14. Thanks for this more comprehensive post and for your use of the word zeitgeist. I clearly did not have the patience to deconstruct it all.

    Also, I find it interesting that Corinna’s take on FIFI is considered conservative. Is a more liberal take simply, “Fuck you, Orbach!”? From my experience I would characterize Corinna’s stance as much more liberal than many others who are part of the movement. It’s all relative, I guess.

  15. I was worried that sentence wasn’t clear… I meant that Corinna considers Orbach’s position conservative from an FA standpoint, because it clings to non-FA notions about overeating and the desirability of weight loss.

    ETA: Okay, I think I have cleared it up.

  16. I’m now stuck thinking about what I might think too radical for me (without being plain wrong)… I should probably get the book and challenge my imagination.

    Don’t want to go off topic too much, but Lidon – one of the things I like about the height/weight and BMI galleries is that I can see that people at my height and weight look completely different, though equally as interesting as me. Our bodies are different shapes, and our faces are more or less fine boned etc. Also just as fat tends to fit with our societies idea of unhealthy, so do the visual aspects of old age. In old age, we tend to lose some of our adipose layer, the all over padding fat that gives us plump cheeks, etc.

  17. “We should all gain as much weight as possible as fast as possible without stopping for any reason because fuck the patriarchy” would be too radical for me, but if there were a very significant, seminal article with that thesis (and I don’t know if there is because I have practically no academic experience on fat), I would consider it important and in fact necessary to include it in a reader. Sometimes social justice movements are more extreme in the early years, which acts as a catalyst for broader change — it would be irresponsible to leave that out.

  18. Great post as always, FJ – I really appreciate the perspective you bring to this as a journalist.

    Two things:

    1) I’m not an expect and I haven’t seen the anthology, but I think you’re being pretty generous. My money would bet that the “the movement wants people to gain as much weight as possible” is not just unfair selection of the most radical pieces in the anthology, but just plain wrong. How much do you want to bet she translated “don’t diet” into “gain weight”? (If someone did say that, I’d take issue with calling it radical – missing the point would be more like it – but that’s another story.)

    2) I may be misreading, but regarding that depression lard link, did you mean to say, “anyone who thinks they’re unequivocally worse”?

    Thanks for the post.

  19. Agreed on both! Kolbert is usually good and I am inclined to be generous but you are right, she’s probably just wilfully misreading. I can’t say that for absolute certain, though, not having read the book.

    As for the second one, whoops.

  20. (I don’t know how to html, but this is a quote from the article; “it” here is fat studies) It effectively allies itself with McDonald’s and the rest of the processed-food industry, while opposing the sorts of groups that advocate better school-lunch programs and more public parks.

    This is dreadful. How on earth did Kolbert get to this place? Our distaste for MeMe Roth? Yes, indeed, I oppose her “group” and groups of that sort. I don’t oppose the purported goal of those groups, however. Aack! Too frustrated to analyze.

  21. You know, every time I hear that claptrap line about the population getting steadily heavier, I’m tempted to scream “Aren’t we also getting steadily taller?!” Taller folks weigh more. Trust me, my bf who was skinny as a rail but a head and shoulders above me outweighed me by a significant margin though I was quite chubby in comparison. Maybe they ARE taking that into consideration, I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound like anybody is, and unless they do I don’t think it’s the most relevant scare tactic argument I’ve ever heard.

  22. Not really, SugarLeigh. BMI sort of takes height into account, but it’s not an actual volume proportion the way it should be, so it messes it up.

    It’s the “steadily” that gets me, because it’s just not TRUE. Also, I mean, we got taller, and there was a subtle shift in the peak shape so our BMI average shifted slightly, so we’re a little fatter… and we live longer. If we’re going to go all causation crazy, why not use that one?

  23. Speaking of scare tactics, this is one that I haven’t seen before: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/overweight-children-suffer-anxiety-as-young-as-6/article1219571/

    In short the argument is this: fat kids suffer from low self-esteem, which means that being fat is bad for your self-esteem. (And whose fault is that, I ask?) I’ve posted a longer comment to my blog, if you’re interested.

    http://cancrit.blogspot.com/2009/07/fat-kids-and-self-esteem.html

    (I’ve become a loyal lurker lately, and I am *hoping* that it’s okay to link to my own writing — but please let me know if that’s a problem in this forum!)

  24. I don’t know where to leave this comment, but I just wanted to say how much this site can helped me slowly adopt a more FA frame of mind.

    I was at a dinner tonight with 4 ladies and the topic of obesity came up and they all snarled and asked in disgust- “How do people let themselves get like that. Don’t they know that exercise will make them thinner and feel better. Ugh”

    As the one fat girl there, I felt like I couldn’t argue with them with any credibility, but I did feel inwardly horrified at their disdain.

    Plus as someone with a chronic condition that makes exercise exhausting and painful, I wanted to scream ” No, exercise does not make everyone feel better.” Maybe, healthful activity does, but not your cardio crap. And how do you know that the obese people don’t exercise?

    i don’t know, I guess I just feel lonely. I no longer buy into their crap, but I don’t have anyone around me who has any empathy and understanding about the complexity of the issue.

  25. @fillyjonk – Wow I hope you’ve written the New Yorker a blistering letter!

    @Mary – In such cases, I shame people: I tell them they’re talking about me, a fat person, as though I’m not there (at which which point they will usually say “*you’re* not fat” – I am – and I’ll ignore them). If I feel like it I’ll summarize some of the basic facts about the health studies and offer to send them links. You might also wish to add your other two points about exercise.
    You don’t *have* to do this, but I actually enjoy it.
    Plus, you know, they did see you sitting there and they were being either deliberate assholes or completely inconsiderate.

  26. @Mary – PS, I’m sorry you’re feeling lonely, and I wish I could be there to kick a little ass on your behalf.

  27. The New Yorker sure did pick a racist cartoon to go with that article! Because, of course, Fat Women Are Evil – but Fat African American Women Are EEEEVVVVVVIIIIILLLLL!!!! and their appetites will destroy White America if left unchecked!

  28. Thanks for the support. Can I tell you something? I had to take a course on Obesity to fulfill an environmental health requirement for my public health degree.

    The instructor looked like a lollipop. She had a stick thin body that was held together solely by her righteous sense of superiority.

    The course did not dwell on the environmental aspects of obesity although there were the perfunctory mentions of the needs for public parks and healthy school lunches. The majority of the time she hammered home the message of “calories in= calories out.” To prove her point, she told the story of how she ate ice cream every night during one summer at camp and gained 15lbs. The experience was shocking and horrible for her. Naturally, she quickly lost the 15lbs by cutting out the evil offender.

    Somehow in her mind the ” ice cream indicent” got morphed into proof that fat people are fat because of caloric imbalance.

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to sit in a lecture hall full of smug public health students who can’t wait to go out in the world and save you from yourself.

    We aren’t all bad, public healthers are probably more aware of racial disparities in health, and the role of poverty, food scarcity, and lack of walkable communities. But at the end of the day, it is all about FIXING people. And if they don’t think they need fixing? Well, then they just aren’t “ready” to address their problem. No worries, we have a program for them too.

    My professors would get huge grants from the gov’t and foundations to encourage fruit and vegetable intake or increased activity ( thankfully those were the measurable endpoints and not just BMI), but after hundreds of thousands of dollars and buy in from stakeholders and churches and minority groups, the participants would have increased their daily intake of vegetables from 1 to 2. It was always something crazy small and any weight loss was minuscule. It just seemed like a poor use of resources to me.

    As students ,we were subjected to those color deepening maps of the US from the CDC showing how every state , but somehow Colorado, was choking on their increased girth. This was like showing a red cape to a bull, suddenly a room full of smug do gooders were eager to write their own grant, to gather 30 participants, to implement their program with a nifty acronym (every good program has one), and then report their findings that 50% of participants who stayed with the program increased vegetable intake by a whopping 15 %. Wow!

    I don’t know what I am trying to say except that many factions have a stake in maintaining the obesity epidemic frenzy.

    I hope none none of y’all went to my school. I am not towing the party line.

  29. ah… I thought you meant I was being conservative too! I thought… woh, for conservative viewpoint it certainly created a stink! But thanks for clearing it up. My brow is unfurrowed now…

  30. Hmm yes…Colorado. And of course, nobody offered that there might be a possible link between faster metabolism and HIGHER ALTITUDE. No, it just has to be that everyone in Colorado is such a goody-two-shoes, not a french fry or a spoonful of hot fudge to be found anywhere. Gaaahhhh.

  31. “We should all gain as much weight as possible as fast as possible without stopping for any reason because fuck the patriarchy” would be too radical for me…

    This would just be a diet, (upwards), ergo would not be radical FA at all, although diets are v. radical in themselves.

    I’ve mused on the question myself, the only thing I could come up with would be to argue that fat people are actually superior to others, and are saving societie(s) by costing less overall.

  32. Hi Mary,
    I too have a public health degree. The coursework for mine didn’t include any courses in obesity, and for the most part, the professors were very good and some of them were fat themselves. Yes, the “change behavior” theories are annoying from the paternalistic perspective, and conflicted with the ethics we were being taught about “involving those affected by the problem” and “first do no harm.”
    But the key message in all of the core classes was “involve those affected by (what you see as) the problem.” Maybe it’s because the emphasis was community health education, and maybe it’s because we had a required course in Community Organizations, which was inherantly radical in its foundations.
    While students would often focus on obesity, the professors in my program would not. This may have changed by now (it’s been 5 years since I graduated). I just want to say that not all MPH programs are the same.

    And, as I’m sure others will point out, the rule here (and mostly elsewhere in the Fatosphere as well) is that making fun of other people’s body shapes and sizes isn’t okay, whether they are larger or smaller than is considered “normal.” (i.e. “lollipop” and “stick thin” are not friendly ways of describing other women’s bodies, no matter how smug said women may be.)

  33. Can I retroactively declare that my weight gain was a subversive act? I mean, I’ve thought of it as something that happened while I was living my life, but there’s a definite appeal to being able to make it all bold and purposeful and stuff.

  34. The instructor looked like a lollipop. She had a stick thin body that was held together solely by her righteous sense of superiority.

    Mary, I think your example is a great one of education gone horribly wrong, but can we please move away from body shaming like this? Thanks.

  35. “….making fun of other people’s body shapes and sizes isn’t okay, whether they are larger or smaller than is considered “normal.” (i.e. “lollipop” and “stick thin” are not friendly ways of describing other women’s bodies, no matter how smug said women may be.)”
    It took a long time for me to really get my head around this one, because I was pissed off that thin women got to be considered appropriate and attractive.
    But aside from the fact that all women get get just for being women, it also helped to think of it in a historical context, with women’s body types and proportions going in and out of fashion like shoes or hem-lengths (albeit a little more slowly). Basically, the thin women got (somewhat) lucky, but we’re all being manipulated.

  36. The article is very faulty, as you so eloquently explain, but I think some of its faultiness can be ascribed to the parameters of its consideration. In focusing ONLY on health, it misses many of the critiques of critical fat studies. Indeed, the cultural critics of fat studies make devastating critiques of the kind of evolutionary logic the writer employs. See, for example, the first chapter of Levy-Navarro’s _The Culture of Obesity in Early and Late Modernity_ where she discusses the cultural and temporal logic behind the fat panic (and diet discourse). Its this basic logic, as much as anything, that needs to be questioned.

  37. No, it just has to be that everyone in Colorado is such a goody-two-shoes, not a french fry or a spoonful of hot fudge to be found anywhere

    Colorado does have a ton of public parks, and when I drag my fat ass out to one of the many parks near my house, I see people of all sizes walking, biking, and rollerblading, including fat people. I also see people of all sizes at our many ice-cream stores, including whippet-thin young men encased in spandex.

  38. I also love how Kolbert calls us “the fat” — claiming that’s what we insist on being called. ‘Cause “fat people” is more characters? Or more humanizing?

  39. Wow, I’m really glad I didn’t get introduced to fat acceptance through the New Yorker. I’m also really glad I got introduced to fat acceptance.

    I am excited to see the connection made to the baby boomers’ actual, natural aging. That just makes sense and interests me.You’d think it would creep into the conversation about fat America more often — that is if people were not so clearly focused on scrutinizing what fat people eat that they blithely ignore other stuff. Unfortunately, Kolbert’s acquaintance with fat acceptance does not seem to have disabused her of the notion that there is something exceptional and wrong about the ways fat people eat. (It does seem hard to shake people out of that. I just received some unwanted advice from a friend about how/what I should eat that was weirdly riddled with wildly wrong, stereotypic assumptions about my diet. Creepy.)

    It seems possible, too, that America could’ve picked up some fat since the 70s from quitting smoking. If so, good on America.

  40. @wellroundedtype2: No kidding. Alternatively, “the Fat” sounds like my next favorite superhero.

  41. Unfortunately, Kolbert’s acquaintance with fat acceptance does not seem to have disabused her of the notion that there is something exceptional and wrong about the ways fat people eat.

    I actually meant to mention this in the post… “This pile of books says that we’re evolutionarily, pragmatically, psychologically, and culturally primed to eat a lot, so put down the fork you cow.”

  42. “Among the rather jaw-dropping claims: fat scholars advocate “putting on weight [as] a subversive act,””

    I suppose “Stop starving yourself to fit a harmful beauty ideal, let your body be heavier if it’s an unhealthy struggle to be as thin as you are now” could be read that way if you acknowledged that this will be seen as a subversive act. I mean, not shaving your legs is still viewed by society at large as some huge shot across the bow of beauty norms. Corporate hairstyle police still seem comfortable tagging women of African descent as raging anarchists for not straightening their hair. In some places, not wearing makeup is tinged with subversion. Why wouldn’t kicking diets and restricted eating to the curb fit that bill?

  43. I suppose “Stop starving yourself to fit a harmful beauty ideal, let your body be heavier if it’s an unhealthy struggle to be as thin as you are now” could be read that way if you acknowledged that this will be seen as a subversive act.

    Yeah, my guess is that she conflated “stop dieting as a subversive act” with “start gaining weight as a subversive act,” making the unsupported assumption that everyone who quits dieting will gain weight in the long run. Big leap.

    Just wanted to share this with you guys: I just deleted a first-timer’s comment that said “I’m fat and I don’t find this article offensive.”
    FJ: OH WELL MY FAT FRIEND SAYS IT’S OK
    SM: I guess they told us. Let’s shut down the blog.

  44. Well, right, preying mantis, but the bigger problem is that conflation between “stop dieting” and “get as fat as possible.” This is what Kolbert (and a lot of obesity alarmists) don’t understand about FA: we don’t want you to be fat, per se. We want you to be *you,* whether you’re fat or not.

  45. Wow, uh, I think I just subconsciously stole your use of the word ‘bizarro’ in my earlier comment.

    Anyway, this made me laugh: “fat studies, I probably don’t need to tell you, isn’t really about the evolutionary psychology of eating”

    Because, yeah. WTF, New Yorker?

    This is laziness. Intellectual laziness. Nevermind fat people.

  46. my guess is that she conflated “stop dieting as a subversive act” with “start gaining weight as a subversive act,” making the unsupported assumption that everyone who quits dieting will gain weight in the long run.

    Yeah, I’m still fucking fuming about this. I mean, like FJ, I have not yet read the Fat Studies Reader, so there could be a “Hey, we should all get as fat as possible!” essay in there. But A) I doubt it, and B) it’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen this from a journalist who just couldn’t separate the concept of “not dieting” from “ballooning like Violet Beauregard.” TURNS OUT FAT PEOPLE CAN MAINTAIN STABLE WEIGHTS JUST LIKE THIN PEOPLE. Sigh.

  47. as an author in the Reader, I can give you a 95% assurance rate that there is no ‘lets get as fat as possible’ piece in there.

    To echo another poster-yes, please go read Levy-Navarro’s book. It shows what a humanities based Fat Studies work looks like, and makes the New Yorker author look like she has no critical thinking skills at all.

  48. [Of hypothetical radical FA] the only thing I could come up with would be to argue that fat people are actually superior to others ….

    Of course we’re superior.

    The brain is very fatty. It’s been a long time since I took phys/anat so I can’t recall specifically, but I think it’s about two-thirds fat.

    Thus, clearly, fat = intelligence.

    So … by the tenets of comic-book science, I reckon even my boobs have brains I haven’t used yet.

  49. Eucritta, suddenly I want to make a superhero character of a gorgeous, battle-ready fat woman in tight spandex called “the brain” whose (comic-book mandated) ultra-low cut fighting top reveals a pair of large, plump, sexxxxxy brainmeats.

    Which is why I probably shouldn’t read this blog or comment whilst sick and doped up.

  50. Wow cool! Its not that I thought there wouldn’t be radical fat theories out there that were too ultra- for me, just that work had sapped my creative brain powers.

    But my ultraradical sisters have the answer. All I need to do is don my red spandex, convince myself to eat the third whole cake and unleash the mighty intellect of my boobs. Can’t wait to read their first manifesto.

  51. The brain is very fatty

    It’s funny you should say that Eucritta because……

    Modern humans have a cranial capacity of about thirteen hundred cubic centimetres. How, as their brains got bigger, did our forebears keep them running? According to what’s known as the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis early humans compensated for the energy used in their heads by cutting back on the energy used in their guts…….This forced him to obtain more energy-dense foods than his fellow-primates….. which put a premium on adding further brain power The result of this self-reinforcing process was a strong taste for foods that are high in calories and easy to digest…it is natural for people to love funnel cakes.

    I think that might be inferring that fatties, or cake funnelers might due, to evolution be growing bigger brains.

    I think this could officially be the start of radical fat acceptance, and I vote for giving credit to the instigator, Elizabeth Kolbert.

  52. Honestly? I’m starting to think we should all get as fat as possible.

    Once people start realizing that “as fat as possible” isn’t a death sentence and that people aren’t actually capable of “gaining a million pounds” and there are STILL skinny people despite the mandate to gain as much as is possible… maybe there’s a chance more people will finally GET IT.

    Quick! Declare fat the new IT GIRL.

    XD

  53. And my apologies as I appear to have lost the ability to type even semi-coherently. I shall go take myflu meds and go to bed now.

  54. You know, I do see gaining weight as a radical act. Outside of recovering from an illness or eating disorder, I don’t advise intentionally packing on extra pounds (even if it’s for an important movie role). However, acknowledging that you have gained weight, that you’re cool with that, and if you gain more you don’t care, in our weight obsessed society that’s pretty damn radical. Refusing to disappear yourself to fit a feminine ideal is pretty radical. Gaining weight to recover from an illness can also be seen as a radical act. How many people who have lost weight while they were sick have gotten unwelcome compliments for “being good”? The implication is that if you go back to your healthy weight, you’re no longer “good”. Standing up and saying “I gained 10 pounds, and I feel better” is as radical as it gets.

    I haven’t read any of the books in question, but I don’t see an essay on weight gain as a radical act to be too far outside of the mainstream for FA. It’s all about context, just because the New Yorker doesn’t give us any doesn’t make it an invalid argument.

  55. Refusing to disappear yourself to fit a feminine ideal is pretty radical.

    That goes just as well if that feminine ideal is BBW, or even feederist, you can ‘disappear’ into them too, that’s the point, self definition as opposed to defining yourself in terms of an ideal.

    Purposefully gaining, is just as much of a diet as purposefully losing, and subject to the same failure, it is not the same as spontaneous gain.

    If you don’t believe me, set out a weight loss diet, repeat but change to weight gain, see how they fit, they are the same.

    They produce the same technique’s and attitudes of complaince, failing to gain makes you the same as if you were failing to lose etc.

    Check out some stuff on cultures that fatten women for marriage, what strikes is it just like the diet mentality.

    Gaining weight is no more intrinsically radical an act than losing it as you say; context. Someone in FA losing weight will be viewed by other in FA as similar to those who gain weight and don’t feel bad are in the mainstream.

    What seems to be truly radical, as we have so much trouble with it, is to accept ourselves as we are, fat, thin, neither, full/flat chested, tall/short etc.

    To see ourselves as a unique creation and yet be able to enjoy, even admire other unique creations without seeing them as a threat or something we must imitate or feel a sense of inadequacy.

  56. I think I see Godless Heathen’s point. If you have been starving yourself thin, then deliberately stopping that and allowing yourself to gain weight up to wherever your body wants to be IS a radical act. If you’re already at your natural weight, well then deliberately gaining would just be silly. But I don’t think that’s what s/he meant. (*Godless solidarity fist-bumps*)

  57. And I will repeat: allowing yourself to gain weight is equivalent to deliberate weight gain how?

    This is like saying that disability activists support the removal or incapacitation of limbs as a subversive act.

    I don’t really care what Kolbert meant. She quoted a piece, probably out of context, saying that fatness was radical, then said we support weight gain as a subversive act. It’s pretty clear to me what her article means in that case.

  58. Oy. This article is critical of the fat acceptance movement in an insidious, backhanded way that bothers me more than if she had just the courage to come out and say “Fat People Suck.”

    I do think our society is set up to make intuitive eating difficult for people. The question is what to do about it. FA suggests that hating yourself because you don’t look like a photoshopped, cosmetically enhanced fourteen year old might not be the place to start. It makes the situation worse.

  59. “The books she looks at discuss the evolutionary, financial, psychological, and industry-driven reasons why the population as a whole might be eating food in larger portions, and might be inclined to eat fatty, salty, and calorie-dense foods.”

    We eat calorie-dense foods because it’s more efficient than grazing all day, particularly as we’re not cattle or rabbits. We eat salty foods because salty taste parses on some instinctive level as “mineral-rich,” and because an inadequate salt intake will kill us. And we eat fatty foods because we have large brains and must keep them fed, and because fat is a more reliable source of fuel to an omnivore or carnivore than starch is, since animals are available as food all year around but plants are not and, at least ever since we tamed fire, we do not hibernate in winter.

    You make sure to mention fatty food as if the fat-haters are right that fat people get fat because we eat fat. If you’re going to stick up for fat people maybe you need to brush up on some actual nutritional science. Only a suggestion. If I may make another suggestion, Gary Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories) is a good place to start.

  60. Addendum to note about the brain’s nutritional requirements: It’s repeated all over the nutritionosphere that the brain must have dietary sugar to function. Not true. There are a few areas of the brain that do require glucose, but they consist of cells that are short on mitochondria. Every other area of the brain is more efficient on ketones than it is on glucose. I read about those low-carbers who were fuzzyheaded, and I think I know why they were: they were in the first part of “induction phase” and hadn’t completely switched over metabolism yet. I’ve done that, and once I got through “induction flu” I was fine. Thought more clearly than ever, to tell you the truth.

    But even those parts of the brain that need glucose, you don’t have to *eat* glucose to sustain them. You can make glucose from protein. And you still need dietary fat as building blocks for various structures in brain cells, and to create hormones which also affect brain health. So those are some reasons we crave fat as a food.

    I got so messed up from eating the wrong kinds of fats and not enough fats overall, plus not getting enough fat-soluble vitamins that I get pretty pissy now when I see misinformation spread around, especially by people who are supposed to be on my side or something. I know professional bloggers are busy and stuff, but there’s a reason blogs have a reputation as being mis-informative. If you’re in that much of a hurry, you will miss something.

  61. Dana, wait, I’m confused! Do you mean that ketosis is actually a beneficial state in some way? I’m *definitely* not a scientist, but that doesn’t sound right to me, based on my knowledge as a layperson. I don’t want to be argumentative, but it would be great if you could clarify.

    (Though, in defense of the writers of this blog — I think they *are* pretty well versed in “actual nutritional science”. At least, I’m convinced!)

  62. You make sure to mention fatty food as if the fat-haters are right that fat people get fat because we eat fat.

    What the hell is wrong with you? I mentioned fatty food because I AM OFFERING A SYNOPSIS OF AN ARTICLE THAT DEALS WITH BOOKS ABOUT WHY WE EAT FATTY FOOD. Maybe that’s too many levels of complexity for you to handle, but it’s what that “the books she deals with” part you quoted means. I really fail to understand how you read that as “please insult my intelligence and then tell me about your awesome ketosis diet” but I’m guessing it’s because you’re a fucking lunatic.

    This is well beyond your third strike so guess what: I’m not giving you a chance to flounce. You’re banned. If you don’t understand why, please read the comments policy under the point “don’t care if you don’t understand why” and also, as a courtesy, the point “do not come in here and talk about your fucking diet like you have in every single fucking post and I don’t understand why we haven’t banned you before.”

  63. You should look at her comments history! She’s been in for a while, and she’s pissed us off every single time, either with her constant diet commentary or her defense of people who make unsolicited comments on your “health” or whatever. The question isn’t who let her in, it’s why wasn’t she out long ago.

  64. in ten years, Americans gained more than a billion pounds, or a gut-busting 3.3 pounds per person per year!

    I just read this sentence again. It’s even sillier than that, FJ, it’s 3.3 pounds per person over ten years, or 0.33 pounds per person per year! Thirty-three pounds in a decade would actually be well above average weight gain for most people, other than us lucky Remeron-swilling cusses, people who were under age 13 a decade ago, and maybe some women who have just been through menopause.

    Also, the Fat Studies Reader (not to be confused with Fat Studies in the U.K., which just came out) isn’t being released until November. I would have to imagine that Kolbert filed her piece several weeks ago, which would put it back in June. How the hell did Kolbert score a copy this far in advance? Were they even done editing it yet? Read the foreword, my bouncing bottom — she’s probably just guessing about even that.

  65. Um, holy shit. I did the math a billion times and I was sure this was how it worked out, but you are right! I should have called you the first time. RICHARD COHEN SAID I WOULD NEVER HAVE TO DO ALGEBRA

    Esther has been willing to let people look at at least excerpts of the book for a long time. My writer friend pitched her article months ago.

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