‘Nuther Quick Hit: Nate Silver Temporarily Suspends Mathematical Rigor

During the presidential campaign I checked http://www.fivethirtyeight.com, like, several times a day. As one whose gifts lie not with the maths* I really appreciated his analysis, and the mounting sense of excitement I got that Indiana might go blue.

Yet even Nate Silver suspends his just-the-numbers-ma’am approach when it comes to obesity. Here he suggests that it’s “certainly true of Americans is that they don’t elect very many fat governors.”

CERTAINLY true. Well, okay. Please bring on the mathematical certitude then!

Running through pictures of the 50 sitting governors, I come up with only about 10 (20%) who are distinctly overweight, and only 3 (6%) — Haley Barbour, Bill Richardson, and Sonny Perdue — who are clearly obese. This compares with percentages on the order of 65 percent and 30 percent for the U.S. adult population.

Ah. So we’re using the rigorous look-at-the-pictures-and-see-if-someone’s-fat-fat-fatty-fat-as-determined-by-male-onlooker method for the governors, and then assuming that will track with the BMI’s, errm, fanciful standards for “overweight” and “obese.”

And what follows is a lot of stuff that you’ve all heard before [edited to add: and, actually, some nearly-there guesses about what it means that "fat" is now a political vulnerability. -AS]. Including Nate Silver demurring that “my classifications are probably a bit conservative given that overweight is the new normal in America.”

(Er, no, dear. It’s really not. “Normal” is the new “overweight.” You know when I first suspected, though, that you would not already be squared away on that point? When this post appeared at 538; and no, it wasn’t written by YOU, but rather by Sean Quinn, BUT STILL. IT IS YOUR BLOG. That’s when I first got wise to the fact that I was likely eavesdropping on a doodily doodily dood conversation, and not so much participating in a smart-people-talking-politics conversation. I mean, really? “Just for kicks!” Hee hee! “Just for kicks, here’s a leering photo at a woman, y’know, working in American politics.” So that’s now TWO kinda douchey things, fellas, that I know of. And I haven’t read your blog since the election, really. Might I gently suggest that you all suck on some male privilege mints before speaking further?)

Anyway, all that is just to say: on that “Signs of the Obesapocalypse” you have hanging on your fridge, please add “Governor-Electorate Corpulence Disproportion” right under “Declining Mitten Sales” and “Barbie Cankles.”

* – Side note: I actually enjoyed math until I had a math teacher in eighth grade who would say things, in class, like: “Oh, all these mistakes in the textbook? Are because there were so many women on the editorial board!” Or, “Hey! Let’s make a list of all the things that women are good at! Let me get a very very tiny piece of paper…” Now, would I have been a brilliant mathematician had it not been for him? Who knows; probably not. But that was it for me and math. Eighth fucking grade. Awesome, dude. “Children! Children! Future! Future!” [/jazz hands]

Posted in Fat

Quick hit: Fat Barbie

No, not that fat Barbie, sadly. According to WWD, shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who recently designed some high fashion Barbies, had to “reshape” the dolls because “He found her ankles were too fat” (according to a spokesperson).

Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)

Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)

I’ll let you sit with that one a minute.

*wanders off, pours some booze, comes back*

Barbie’s ankles are too fat for fashion. Barbie, the fashion doll. Barbie, the legendarily disproportionate model of femininity, whose feet are permanently molded for high heels, has cankles.

(Hat tip Broadsheet.)

SP Round Table: Fat baby denied health insurance

Kate started us off by pointing to this horrifying story about a 4-month-old baby in Colorado who was denied health insurance for being too fat. Super fun quote from the article:

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

We began this roundtable with general email screaming. Once we calmed down, here’s what we had to say.

Tall Chairs Round Table (by moriza)

Tall Chairs Round Table (by moriza)

Kate:
A) The kid is at the 99th percentile for height AND weight, so WTF? B) This is exactly why we need universal health insurance. Because, setting the height thing aside, let’s say the kid really is bizarrely fat at 4 months. There’s virtually no chance that this is the parents’ fault in any way. (Not that it would be the parents’ fault if the kid were old enough to eat solid food and exercise, mind you, but go with me here.) Which means that if this kid IS much fatter than one could reasonably expect him to be, it’s almost certainly because of * the possibility that it’s a genetic disorder – of the sort that gets older kids stolen from their parents because authorities are convinced it’s all calories in/calories out — becomes increasingly likely. And I would not be one fucking bit surprised if that’s part of the insurance company’s calculation here — not that fatness will make the baby expensively sick down the line, but that fatness suggests the baby might ALREADY be expensively sick. And of course, the important thing is making sure we don’t spend money on sick children.

Sweet Machine:
I find it really sad that the parents in the article are joking about the diets they’ll have to put the baby on. Because of course that’s the kind of joke that I’d make, too, but it actually points to the problem so well: is this what the insurance people want? What exactly can you do to an infant to make them skinnier that does not constitute grievous harm? I’m no pediatrician, but really, what the hell?

Fillyjonk:
That upset me primarily because I’m not sure how long it will remain a joke. It’s one of those bits of satire that’s so close to some people’s reality that it’s uncomfortable. I mean, people switch their babies to skim milk, and put them on diets while they’re still in diapers. Making a crack about weaning the kid to Slimfast is funny, especially with the jab at expensive weight-loss products, but it isn’t even far enough outside of the norm to function as satire. Some people hearing that joke are going to say “and well you should.”

If they’re in a position where they can either let the kid remain uninsured or put him on a diet, they’re going to put him on a diet. It’s all very well to recognize that feeding a baby Slimfast is absurd, but a) it’s not absurd for a lot of people and b) how long can they afford to acknowledge its absurdity?

A Sarah:
My first thought was of how incredibly, incredibly fragile the first year of life has been for most of human history.  Getting babies adequate nutrition and hydration to live on is a GODDAMN SERIOUS ISSUE for our species, seeing how human newborns come into the world VERY dependent relative to the young of other primates.  (Tradeoff for the bipedalism and the big brains.)  Plenty of healthy babies still are one infection, bout of diarrhea, or disruption in the food supply away from life-threatening malnutrition.  The arrogance of saying, “Well, the baby’s fat, and healthy… but FAT, and FAT babies might become FAT GROWNUPS, and I mean… EW! and anyway, all the other insurance companies are doing it.  I mean, there’s MONEY involved, y’see.”

FUCK.  I mean, FUCK. Have these people ever seen a sick infant?  A truly sick infant?  Or, hell, a WELL infant?  I’m so angry.

SM:
That is such a great point. I mean, there’s a reason that chubby babies have traditionally been seen as desirable, right? It’s really obscene.

And of course this points to, once again, the complete clusterfuck that is the US health system. Which will make me all rantypants if I say another word about it.

FJ:
As infuriating as this is, denying obese adults health insurance might be even more infuriating. Babies who can’t get health insurance are the top 5 percent of heavy babies — the adults who can’t get health insurance are, as we hear over and over again, the top 30 percent.

SM:
Have y’all read amandaw’s post about pre-existing conditions and how ableist it is to be, like, extra-angry about only the more outrageous cases? It’s on my mind because she reposted it on the new FWD blog, and I’m wondering how this plays into it. I think basically it actually highlights the ableism involved in denial of care, because, as amandaw says, the underlying assumption of our ableist culture is that if someone’s sick, they did something wrong. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, they secretly brought it on themselves (though of course some patients are “more deserving” than others). But a 4-month-old, pretty much by definition, can’t have done anything wrong. It really points to the identity-versus-behaviors problem of the “obesity epidemic.” Here is someone who is innocent in every way we understand that word — but who is being treated as guilty by a system that assumes that if adults are fat or sick, it’s their fault.

AS:
Throwing this into the mix, not sure how it fits: I was astounded, when I had kids, to realize just how vulnerable even a very very very healthy young baby (like, 6 mos.) is. Up to some point (can’t remember how many months) a fever over 101 is a medical emergency and you don’t call the doctor, you call 911.  To have the misfortune of getting chicken pox and strep at the same time can be life-threatening.  Diarrhea is pretty serious.  Frequent well baby checkups if you’re going by the AAP recommendations.  Lots of things that are vaccinated against now routinely killed children before immunizations (and very rare vaccine reactions injure babies today.)  That’s not to be all OMG PARENTING MEANS MARINATING IN FEAR — because it also turned out that a bump on the head or an accidentally-burned finger or the TV being on or some store-bought baby food does not in fact teach babies NEVER TO LOVE OR LEARN — but since we’re talking about things that send babies into the healthcare system, it seems pertinent.

So we have these poor little innocent babies (and yeah, I mean, who doesn’t love babies?) but when one considers how great are the healthcare needs even of young babies with NO known medical conditions, it just seems so ridiculous and disingenuous.  So, okay, insurance company, you’re concerned that the baby might be eating too much breastmilk (omgwtf?!?) and, what, will be fat and expensive and selfish and lazy someday?  Right. Couldn’t be that babies are big consumers of healthcare, or that they’re one of the groups for whom there sometimes are public programs, or that you’re just looking for a way to save a buck without appearing like the hater of human life that you are.

*ETA: My original language there was problematic. –Kate

Friday Fluff: Cheaper Than A Palatial Spa

Hey! Y’all! [lowers voice to a conspiratorial whisper] Guess what I’m doing RIGHT NOW. [chuckles furtively]

Dude, I’m staying up half the night with my two awake kids, one of whom is VOMITING BILE! Because a nasty, nasty stomach virus has been making the rounds in our house. (I lost six pounds in three days LIKE MAGIC! My husband is STILL shaky and dehydrated! Ahh, life’s rich pageant… love you, just LOVE you.)

Meanwhile, you all — to say nothing of FJ and SM specifically, who’ve heroically handled the vast majority of the moderating on these monster threads — have been dealing with nasty bile-spewing of a different sort. And I’m guessing we all (and by that I mean you, if you’re a sincere regular reader or lurker who’s been fighting the good fight) need three weeks paid time off at a magnificent resort, retreat center or spa.

Since that’s not in our budget this year, I’m asking you, please please please, to turn this thread into something that I hope will be nearly as restorative. I’d like us collectively to cover all of the following before the thread dies.

-Children guilelessly using profanity to humorous effect
-Frolicking otters
-Videos that make one want to cheer or dance around the room
-Charming sniglets
-Charming piglets
-Alarming 1980′s workout outfits
-Excruciatingly psychologically correct letters written to humorously-inappropriate recipients thereof. (For example: “Dear Broken Toaster — I don’t mean to minimize your experience, but I wonder whether you and I might have different needs…”
-links to palatial retreat centers and other gobsmackingly beautiful settings where we may spend our Shapeling retreat/start our Shapeling commune once we get a very rich benefactor.
-Comfort food recipes
-Phony and funny but plausible-sounding dissertation titles
-Deliberately bad poetry

(And yes, you may add your own requests to this list, so long as they are all SUPER FLUFFY, like, Snuggle-fabric-softener-bear funny; and not things like “I’d like to hear someone go on at length about how sad they feel to think that men aren’t automatically, as a class, given 100 percent of the trust and goodwill of women, as a class.”)

Sound good? Good. Because I hear retching in the next room. Thanks in advance. Gaaaaaah.

Posted in Fat

Quick hit: Sour milk

Quick hit so we can talk about something other than how I’m a humorless, comics-hating, loveless feminist who thinks men should be arrested for talking to women in public: Feministing points to Spike TV’s utterly appalling feature, “The Top 10 Actresses Past Their Expiration Date.” Get it? Like milk! Ha ha!

If you can stand to look at the list, you may note, not without some bitter chuckling because that is the only laughter produced by feminist bodies, that what most of these women are criticized for are actually measures that they have taken so as not to look older. Thus the beauty ideal eats its own tail: age naturally, and you’re a wrinkly hag; attempt to fix your haglike wrinkles and you’re “a scary mix between Michael Jackson and the mummy of King Tut.”

Here’s the main complaint for each of the 10: too much Botox; too skinny; too chubby; too skinny; too squinty (?); too wild; too mannish; too much Botox; too much makeup; too old. So, there you go, Hollywood Ladiez, it’s easy: just don’t be any of those things, and the dudes at Spike will grace you with their hard-ons forever.

Quick appeal: Stories of weight discrimination and health care

This thread contained a number of stories of Shapelings’ experiences of discrimination from doctors – including stories of patients being directly and concretely physically harmed by a doctor’s failure to diagnose something properly due to weight bias.

Okay, so I feel like what I’m about to say is some kind of thick purée of every daytime television commercial ever, but still I press on: Are you between the ages of 25 and 60? Have you or has someone you love been hurt by a doctor because you’re fat? Are you in a position of enough safety that you can allow your name to be used? Please consider contacting Ginny Graves, who is writing a story for Healthon weight bias in medicine. She’s put up notices several places, she says, including First Do No Harm, but has not so far gotten any takers. So if you’ve already put up your story on FDNH and are willing to be identified in the article, you’re one of the people she’d like very much to hear from.

Please contact her at glgraves@comcast.net. And thanks!

Posted in Fat

The Vision Chart Effect

So here’s a blurb on a new study, courtesy of Washington Post’s “The Checkup.” It opens:

Women, want to enjoy good health in your golden years?

Ooh! I know this one! [thinks] YES.

Lose weight. Now.

Oh. Wow, that’s… um, directive. Not one to slice the bologna too thin, eh, WaPo? Attention ALL WOMEN! What? Yes, even YOU, the one whose BMI puts you in the underweight range. Want to be healthy when you’re old, woman? Lose weight. Now. It’s What Women Do, see.

Look, I don’t want prematurely to pile on Jennifer LaRue Huget, whom I don’t know from Eve. (I will note that a quick Google search suggests that she’s written two children’s books that miiiiiiiight just tap into the old mothers-are-the-ones-who-bear-total-responsibility-for-the-kids-and-I-can’t-therefore-fathom-why-they’re-so-UPTIGHT-laff-laff-chortle thing. But perhaps if I read the books I’d be pleasantly surprised. It’s happened before.) She was writing, probably under a deadline, on a study that was uploaded to the BMJ website LAST NIGHT. Plus, who knows what changes her editor made?

In any case, one can’t expect a short, punchy WaPo blurb to contain as much nuance as this analysis of the same study, which appeared today on… ummm… Washington Post’s “The Checkup,” and was reported by a Jennifer LaRue Huget:

The study controlled for socioeconomic status and for smoking, diet and other lifestyle behaviors that could affect physical and mental health. One caveat: Most of the women studied were white, so researchers aren’t sure their findings extend broadly across the general population.

Oh. The heck you say. Well, no, that’s really okay, because we’re all pretty sure that white women count for all women, right? So the opening command to lose weight probably still holds. Plus: look, it’s a WaPo blog. If one wanted in-depth and even-handed analysis like this:

Still, the study adds new fodder to the often-heated debate about how closely body weight correlates to health. While the common wisdom is that being overweight puts people at increased risk of life-shortening diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, others say no such cause-and-effect relationship has been scientifically established and that people can be very healthy even if they’re overweight or even obese. The new research is the first, according to its authors, to examine the role of overweight and obesity in overall health among women who survive to older ages.

…one would need to look here, in the coverage by WaPo’s “The Checkup,” by Jennifer LaRue Huget.

Okay, okay, I’m having a little joke. It’s ALL the same article! Ha! But seriously. [Puts on serious face]. Shapelings, I point this out as an example of a phenomenon I see in health reporting and advertising. I call it the Vision Chart Effect. The principle runs thus: In messages about fat, the text at the top is big, bold, and brief. Read down and it gets smaller and smaller, and lengthier and lengthier. Just like an eye chart! Witness:

UR FAT!

LOSE WEIGHT FOR HEALTH!

Look at these ladies! They’re thin!* And therefore healthier than you!**

*Not that we actually know any good way for YOU to get thin. Results not typical and so on.***

***-Incidentally, you maybe should know that this might not have fuck-all to do with overall health.

** – And by “you” I mean “white lady.” Frankly, if you’re not white we’re probably not talking about you in the first place.

Because I know that people who show a concern for “health” always have everyone’s best interests at heart, it is my studied opinion that the mainstream media provides this effect as a SERVICE. A service to FAT PEOPLE. Isn’t that nice? Because apparently some fat people experience prejudice at the doctor’s office. To the point that they avoid going and getting regular checkups for things like vision. (A fact which could not POSSIBLY have any effect on overall health as one enters one’s golden years.)

Posted in Fat

On Polanski

kateiconYesterday, I wrote the most surprisingly and immediately successful blog post of my life over at Broadsheet, “Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child.”

I first realized I’d hit a nerve when I linked to it on Twitter, and the retweets started pouring in, continuously and (as of this writing) endlessly. (There have been hundreds involving “@kateharding” at this point; no clue how many links to it altogether, but I just realized bit.ly tracks clicks on your shortened links, and that one’s had 6,883 so far.) I figured something was really up when I was invited to be on a right-wing talk radio show, and I saw the article tweeted by a high-profile conservative blogger. (Who knew being disgusted with Roman Polanski would turn out to be the ever-elusive common ground between right-wing dudes and liberal feminists?) Then more media requests came in, including one from France. (I’ve been turning them all down, mostly because they all want me to do it live during work hours.) Also, an unprecedented amount of fan mail, coming via my published address, Facebook, and the general Broadsheet addy. Plus an appreciative tweet from Cheryl Strayed, a writer I’ve adored for years and certainly never expected to “meet” via her saying my work was awesome. And then a couple of letters from journalists not looking to interview me, just telling me I’d nailed it.

The post went to number one on Salon, and is still there at this writing. This morning, I found out that in less than 24 hours, it got over 100,000 page views. (I hope I’m not revealing site  secrets here, but let’s just say that’s awfully rare for Broadsheet.) Then a friend e-mailed to tell me Amy Sullivan at Time called it “the best, most comprehensive rebuttal” to Polanski supporters. Another friend pointed out the Salon post was cited on the Wikipedia entry for Polanski. Later, over at Newsweek, our new pal Kate Dailey wrote, “There have been a lot of smart and convincing rebuttals to these objections, most notably Kate Harding’s forceful, powerful essay on Salon.” Around which time, my editor wrote and said, “OMG HOW BIG IS YOUR HEAD NOW? I am putting an end to this well-deserved praise pile-on by telling you that there is something funny on your nose.” Because she is awesome like that.

Today, I wrote a follow-up rant for Jezebel, focusing on the ridiculous amount of celebrity support Polanski is getting. Neither my editor there nor I expected it to get anything like the traffic of the Salon piece — the news is a day older, I’ve already said plenty — and who knows if it ultimately will, but 45 minutes after it went up, she IMed me and said, “It’s already gotten 5,000 page views.” Just checked, and about 6 hours later, it’s gotten 24,000.

Yes, my head is enormous right now, but that’s not the point of this post. Well, not completely.

Here’s the interesting thing about all this: All I’ve done is say that Roman Polanski raped a child, fled before he could be sentenced for it, and thus, by any reasonable standard, deserves to be punished — all of which is a matter of public record, except the opinion on punishment, which is common sense. I didn’t break any ground here. I didn’t uncover any news. I didn’t turn a phrase so exquisite it will be studied in lit classes in 100 years. I just called a fugitive child rapist a fugitive child rapist.

And it turns out a whole lot of people were waiting to hear someone say just that, straight-up, unencumbered by a bunch of bullshit about the importance of his work, his artistic genius, his age, whether his victim looked 13 or not, the judicial misconduct that marred his case or, most gallingly, the “punishment” he’s already “suffered” by spending more than 30 years in “exile.” (If being wealthy, successful and almost completely free to roam Europe counts as exile, sign me up.) A whole lot of people really just wanted to hear someone in the media say, “He raped a child. He fled the country. He damn well should have been arrested, he should be extradited, and it really shouldn’t have taken three fucking decades to make that happen. The end.” But very few people in the media did.

Why is that? Why have so few journalists stated the obvious? Why have I only heard about three people in the film industry (Kevin Smith, Luc Besson and Greg Grunberg) saying, in essence, “He fucking drugged and raped a kid, and he’s not above the law,” while hundreds of celebrities are signing petitions demanding his release, wearing “Free Polanski” buttons and trying to spin his arrest as an attack on artistic freedom? Why am I suddenly a freakin’ darling of the right, while a bunch of liberals argue it’s been such a long time, he’s suffered so much, he’s so old, he survived the Holocaust, his wife was murdered, and oh yeah, did you see Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired? JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! (Let me be clear: Judicial misconduct sucks, and there does seem to have been some here. Polanski and his lawyers have every right to vigorously protest that. But whether he raped a child was never at issue — only his sentencing for it — and also, HE FLED THE FUCKING COUNTRY instead of pursuing his concerns through the legal system.) As Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery tweeted earlier today, “Seriously, all it takes for smart lefties to believe Polanski [should] not be punished for child rape is agitprop documentary? Pathetic.”

Pathetic indeed. And yet.

The overwhelming response to my posts is as heartening as it is head-embiggening. Far more people than I could have imagined were thrilled that someone came along and stated the obvious. But still, “Roman Polanski raped a child, end of fucking story” is far from the dominant media narrative about the case right now. Still, people are endlessly debating whether it was appropriate to arrest a fugitive child rapist.

Why do you suppose that is?

Posted in Fat

Fat people in love: Not as rare as unicorns

Hey, remember all the troglodytes over the course of your life who implied, concern trolled, or flat-out decreed that you would never find love if you’re fat? Fatshionista’s Lesley has put together the ultimate comeback: The Museum of Fat Love, “an incomplete collection of evidence proving the existence of those not-so-rare creatures: fat people in love.”

Fat people in love

Fat people in love

Like fat athletes and fat models, fat people in love are not the rare thing we’ve all been led to believe (more evidence: fat brides). I really like that the MoFL includes the stories of the people in the photos: it’s amazing what happens when you give people space to use their voices. And, you know, their heads.

Lesley is still accepting submissions from “anyone, in any variety of romantic relationship, who’d like to be included,” as well as individuals who’d like to “share themselves and their stories of self-love.”

Once More With Feeling: We Already Know We’re Fat

kateiconZuzu sent me a link to the latest Schott’s Vocab post at the NYT, this one examining the phrase “fat gap.” Ben Schott points out that the phrase “has also been used to describe disproportionately high obesity rates among the poor, and the differing levels of obesity in different ethnic groups in Washington D.C.,” but here, he’s talking about how it’s used it in yet another article about yet another survey showing obese people are too stupid to know we’re obese. Says the Telegraph: “They are suffering from a new phenomenon dubbed ‘the fat gap’ which has blurred public perception of what is a healthy weight.”

Schott also quotes BBC health reporter Clare Murphy on the matter:

The findings appear to be fresh evidence of a phenomenon that health professionals have long suspected: as those around us get fatter, our perceptions of our own size change accordingly.

No, our perceptions of our own size are not the problem here; our perceptions of the size that constitutes clinical obesity is, and there are some damned good reasons for that. Murphy even touches on one of them — “pictures of children too fat to toddle or the adults so large they need to be hoisted from his house have transformed obesity into a freak show” — but still doesn’t quite connect all the dots.

Let’s review. As Fillyjonk said earlier this month:

This so-called epidemic is not made up of theoretical fucking people who are just as fat as you can possibly imagine. It’s made up of people you see every day AND WHO YOU PROBABLY THINK ARE “NOT FAT.”

It is also, of course, made up of the very fat people held up as “freaks,” and plenty of people in between, but the fact remains that in the U.K., as with the U.S., the majority of obese people have a BMI between 30 and 35. Which means that if they don’t know they’re clinically obese, it’s probably because they’ve never calculated their BMI, they look nothing like the media’s image of obesity, and they’ve constantly got people telling them they’re not even fucking fat.

That’s a sore spot for me, as you know, and I’ve been getting it more than usual lately. Jezebel commenters, journalists, anyone new I mention my work to — “Wait, I don’t get it. You don’t look fat to me!” My sister J’s first comment on the Chatelaine spread: “Guaranteed to garner plenty of ‘you’re not even fat’ comments!”  And the sad thing is, I’d already had the same thought. I am thisclose to making myself a skintight “This is what obesity looks like” T-shirt.

And it’s not even like I’m borderline obese. My BMI is about 35, based on my best guess of what I weigh right now (low 190s). So in fact, the only border I am on is that of obese class 2. I am, in fact, more obese than most obese people in this country. So is Fillyjonk. So is Joy Nash (at the high end of class 1, being 1 lb. heavier and 1 inch taller than class 2 FJ). So is Coco. So is Slay Belle. So is Shannon. Are you getting the picture?

I say this, as always, not to make fatter fats feel like freaks (of whom we are quite fond anyway), but to clarify why a reasonable person might be confused about the clinical definition of obesity, and just who makes up this epidemic we’re constantly hearing about. The reporters telling us that of 2000 people surveyed, 25% were obese but only 7% knew it, really seem to believe that’s because fatties are looking around at other fatties and going, “Well, gosh, I don’t look that bad, so I must not really be fat.” They don’t ever  consider that people who are class 1 obese — once again, most obese people — almost certainly realize they’re some value of “fat” but might not realize they’re over the “obese” threshold because the visual definition of “obese” they’re usually offered by THE SAME GODDAMNED MEDIA OUTLETS refers only to a tiny percentage of the population.

Oh, Murphy sort of acknowledges that, but here’s how:

The focus on the extreme in television documentaries about the very large but also in the pictures that are chosen to illustrate articles about obesity have also been held up as another potential culprit.

“If you see people with BMI of over 50, say, and you have a BMI of 40 then you may well think you aren’t too bad,” says Dr Krystyna Matyka of the University of Warwick Medical School.

OK, first, I’d just like to point out that the illustration for this very article is a close-up of belly rolls and the caption “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.” Second, without knowing for sure how the stats broke down, I can almost guarantee you that the problem is not people with a BMI over 40 failing to recognize that they’re obese; it’s THE MAJORITY OF OBESE PEOPLE, WHO ARE MUCH THINNER THAN THAT.

So instead of actually teaching anyone what “obese” more commonly looks like, studies and articles like this merely reinforce the stereotype that fat people are not only ignorant but delusional. Instead of imagining people who look like Angelos or Ginny being unaware that they’re on the threshold of clinical obesity, or people like Cassie and Delilah not realizing they’ve already crossed it, the average reader imagines the headless, dehumanized, extremely fat person in the picture standing in front of a mirror, making finger guns and going, “How you doin’, slim?” Which serves the purpose of amping up discrimination against “ignorant” fat people quite well, but doesn’t actually do a goddamned thing to help the majority of obese people recognize that they qualify as such, which is supposed to be the point here, isn’t it?

Problem is, actually talking about people with a BMI just over 30 not realizing they’re officially obese, when most people wouldn’t realize it about them, either, would make it really hard to advance the thesis that fat people are idiots who lie to themselves! It’s much easier to stay vague about exactly who, among obese folks, doesn’t know it, and then “support” your thesis with lines like this:

Over half of those deemed morbidly obese believed they ate a healthy diet, while more than a third of the overweight said they had never tried to shed the pounds.

It’s not possible, of course, that over half of those deemed morbidly obese actually are eating a healthy diet. Calories in, calories out, people! Clearly, more than 50% of really fat people just DON’T KNOW THAT ALL THOSE DOUGHNUTS ARE BAD FOR THEM. Never mind that we have no idea who they are, what they’re eating, how much they exercise, or what sort of medical problems they have. Never mind that most fat people eat about the same amount as most thin people. As always, the important thing is to insist that the fattest fatties obviously know squat about nutrition and/or routinely lie to themselves about what goes in their mouths. And how about all those overweight people who have never even tried dieting — how crazy is that? I mean, just because they might look like Jessica or Kate or Meg and Jeffrey, just because they might not have been “overweight” at all before the threshold was lowered from 27 to 25, WHERE DO THOSE FATASSES GET OFF NOT EVEN DIETING?

Oh hey, speaking of which, did I mention that this is all based on an internet poll done  by market research firm YouGov for a company called Slimming World? Murphy, to her credit, does mention that. But it doesn’t stop her from ending the article with this quote from Dr. Susan Jebb of the Human Nutrition Research Laboratory of the Medical Research Council:

Everybody knows obesity is a problem for the nation, but they don’t accept it’s a problem for them – as this latest survey shows. We need to give people the confidence to recognise that it is problem, and that it’s one they can do something about.

We can totally do something about it! Like go to Slimming World! If only we have the confidence to recognize how problematic our fat is.  And of course we totally won’t gain it back within five years or fuck up our health along the way!

Now, back to that line about the morbidly obese delusionally believing they don’t eat poorly, and the overweight having the gall not to diet at all. You’ll note that there’s no mention whatsoever of the people most likely to misjudge themselves as non-obese, i.e. — sing it with me now — the majority of obese people. Do you see the bait and switch there? The story is ostensibly about obese people not even realizing how dangerously fat we are, but the examples given are of A) some obese people who surely do know they’re obese saying they eat healthfully, which is probably fucking true, and B) clinically overweight people choosing not to diet, which is probably because they’re not fucking fat (and/or they’re bright enough to realize diets don’t work).

This story says absolutely nothing about the majority of obese people, specifically. Meanwhile, 7% of those surveyed did, in fact, properly categorize themselves as obese — which happens to be a bit higher than the total percentage of morbidly obese people, suggesting that that group does, in fact, know bloody well that they qualify as obese (as do some people with a BMI lower than 40). So why are we talking about delusional death fats again? There’s also no mention of how the other obese folks categorized themselves, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that most, if not all of them, would have gone with “overweight,” because fat people know we’re fucking fat, even if we don’t all know exactly where the BMI cut-offs are.

That just doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”