Without Comment Friday

I am finding the daily ranting rather draining these days, and I don’t have cats to blog, so I am hereby inaugurating Without Comment Fridays, a new series in which I shall point you to the articles I would rant about, were I not committed to remaining in a relatively pleasant mood at least one day a week. (You, however, are encouraged to wax outraged in comments to your heart’s content.)

So. Without comment, more or less:

  • Obesity causes fucking birth defects now. Just for shits and giggles, why don’t y’all go ahead and see if you can identify the particular things I would rant about in that article, if I were ranting today.
  • If you haven’t yet seen the Times article about putting leptin in baby formula to keep the kiddos from catching teh fat, go now. (Never mind, as we’ve discussed previously, that breastfed babies — i.e., those already receiving leptin in their very first food — still get fat, for fuck’s sake.)

And wait, I’ve been avoiding that story all week, but now that I’m acknowledging it, it actually does demand a comment. Here’s the article’s conclusion:

Oceans of soda, mountains of baked goods and sparkling glaciers of ice cream are now a permanent part of our landscape, and it may be easier to change us than them.

If that doesn’t sum up the ass-backward thinking about fat and health in this country, I don’t know what does. Since we can’t expect people to eat healthfully, we need to focus on making sure nobody gets fat! Because of course it’s the fat, not the fucking eating habits, causing the health problems. Skinny people who live on soda, baked goods and ice cream couldn’t possibly get sick, so if we make sure everyone stays skinny, we’re all set!

Hello, desk, my forehead’s old friend.

See also: Zuzu, Rachel, and Jill on that topic.

  • Finally, to maintain my positive disposition in the face of all the rantworthy shit, I shall direct you to The Onion, which asks the important question: Are we doing enough to shame obese children?

Okay, fine, call it “Minimal Commentary Friday,” then. Shutting up doesn’t come naturally to me, all right?

38 thoughts on “Without Comment Friday

  1. I swear the “oceans of soda” comment HAD to have been written by someone on Atkins who was having a major carb jones. I mean, the idea that there’s no such thing as “unhealthy eating” if you’re thin, and no such thing as “healthy eating” if you remain fat, is whacked enough on its face. But that comment just reeked of, “Fuckity fuck, I have to starve in order to keep my prestigious job at the Times, fuckity fuck, I want an It’s-It and a Coke with cherry syrup so bad I’d KILL.” Too bad the diet-heads get to take it out on the rest of America.

  2. So I read the birth defects article, and this made me roll my eyes (RME) to an impressive degree – let’s say 8 out of ten RMEs:

    “While the study didn’t examine weight during pregnancy, it’s also possible that some women tried potentially dangerous weight-loss techniques right before conception or during early pregnancy, when most birth defects occur, the researcher said.

    She urged obese pregnant women, however, not to try diet pills, fasting or other aggressive methods which also might contribute to risks for birth defects.”

    So. The end result is feel guilty about being fat, and also if you succomb to the pressure to be thin? Message received.

  3. I was just coming here to remark about the thing in The Onion. Sometimes I think there is no hope.

    I don’t hate thin people. I really don’t. I don’t see why they should hate me, either.

    I look at a thin person and I think, there’s a thin person. It is what it is. If the person is particularly thin, I might give some thought to it. Maybe he has really thin parents. Maybe she eats all the time and nothing sticks to her. He might have had gastric bypass and ended up malnourished. She might be dealing with cancer. Perhaps they both have an eating disorder. Could be he wishes he could fill out a little more but nothing works. Maybe she has to think about her bodily maintenance every day of her life to look the way she wants to, and wishes she could think about something else for a change.

    I HAVE NO IDEA why this person is shaped as he/she is, and actually? It doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t change my dealings with him/her AT ALL. We serve each other and size makes no difference.

    But do you think I will ever be afforded any of the same generosity of spirit, ever?

  4. Yes I do know it was satire. However I know you couldn’t make that joke if people didn’t think that way already.

  5. Sorry, Celeste! Didn’t mean to underestimate you — I’ve just run into a lot of people online who don’t get that the Onion is satire, and I don’t know you well enough yet. :)

    And I hear you that it’s really just as sad as it is funny. Which is a lot.

  6. What I also liked about the study: almost twice the participants had babies with birth defects, (10000 to 4500?). They basically said “we don’t know what causes most birth defects. But be thin anyway!”

    As to the Times piece…I found it interesting that they didn’t think a guy should order a big-ass steak on the first date. I think it would be fucking hilarious if the standard flipped – girls pig out on dates to show guys that they’re not afraid of eating actual food, and guys eat salads to show that they’re really healthy inside.

  7. Here’s my main problem with the article pregnacy article:

    1st paragraph:
    Women who are obese before pregnancy face a higher risk of having babies with a variety of birth defects than women with a healthy weight, a new study suggests.

    3rd paragraph:
    “Obese women should not be overly alarmed by these findings because their absolute risk of having a child with a birth defect is low, and the cause of the majority of birth defects is unknown,”

    So BASICALLY you’re saying overall, the chances of birth defects are low and there is really no evidence that being obese caused the defects in the first place. WTF?!

  8. I’m not a statistician, nor have I ever had a class in statistics, but how can they say 3% of normal weight women have babies with major birth defects, 4% of obese women have babies with major birth defects, then turn around and say the chances of a specific major birth defect are anywhere from 20 to 60% more likely to happen to a baby of an obese woman? How can you go from a 1% overall increase to a 20% or 40% or 60% specific increase? Does this make sense?

  9. We’re cool, KH. :smile:

    I had an obese pregnancy over age 35, and they give you PUH-lenty of doomsday talk. They always want you to have the amnio so they can CYA….and the A in question is their own. Never mind that only 400 birth defects are known to have a genetic basis…and never mind that there are only tests for 10% (ie 40) of those problems. Just tell me how many other times you would let a doctor sell you on a test with stats like that.

    I absolutely think that there will come a time when prenatal genetic testing will be able to identify a “fat” gene…and that there WILL be parents who will terminate a pregnancy over it. The world is already full of people who terminate a pregnancy just because they found out it was a girl rather than a boy.

  10. I am obese and pregnant, so this study pisses me off. My midwife is ahead of the curve, so she is not trying to terrify me about teh fat and my baby. In fact, she warned me immediately to not attempt to diet at all, and she was concerned when I lost weight (unintentionally) in my first trimester.

    We need fat to use energy. We use energy in generating a human being. That human needs fat too. Fat is not evil.

    But since I’m fat I shouldn’t have been having sex in the first place, because I’m genetically inferior, and who is the freak that wanted to fuck me anyways, and how can I imagine being a fat mother, and the state should take my children away, and I probably smell, and I will make you fat from a distance if you consider me a friend, and I will cost the country millions in healthcare, and I’m just not trying hard enough, and I don’t love myself enough to be thin. According to all studies that get the MSM attention, that is the picture of me, a fatty with child.

  11. A small word of advice: the link to the Times article is incorrect. You need to remove the second “http//” from the URL.


    Meg the incurable copyproofer.

  12. Vesta,
    The 20-60% figures are a measure of the % change, not the actual change. They take the change between groups, in this case 3% compared to 4% = 1%, and calculate what percentage that is of the original. I think they must be using some more complex calculations here to get such a wide range of numbers, perhaps looking at specific birth defects and reporting that % change.

    I find it easier to understand in my head if the initial measures are not couched in terms of percentages. Like if you think of it as 3 out of 100 average woman compared to 4 out of 100 obese women, the difference is 1 and 1 is 30% of the estimate for average women. So we could say that the risk increased by 30%. (But doesn’t 20-60% sound so much more impressive?)

    Results from studies are often reported this way, especially looking at events that are very rare. Lets say if something only happens .001% of the time, but for a specific group it might happen .005% of the time. When reporting this reporters/ Researchers will say only that a certain group isre 5 times more likely to have this problem, or that the chance of having this problem increases by 400% for a certain group.

    This is INCREDIBLY misleading and is one of my major pet peeves. By not providing the actual risk estimates they lead people to think things are much more likely to happen than they areally are. After all, five times sounds like a big increase, but if the number is that small already it may not be a risk you want to factor into your day to day life.

    I encourage everyone after reading articles that talk about risk factors for diseases to go and find out what that risk factor is on average before you worry about what the increase is.

  13. Okay, first up, the birth defects study:

    The findings suggest that about 4 percent of women who are obese before pregnancy will have babies with major birth defects, versus 3 percent for healthy-weight women, Waller said.

    The 3% factor is pretty standard across the range – so let’s call it the standard rate of birth defects. This means the actual *increase* in risk for an obese woman is 1% overall. There’s no mention whether they compensated for age, number of previous children, or anything like that. Age is actually a far greater risk factor for birth defects than obesity – by the age of 40, your risk of having a child with a birth defect is somewhere between 6 – 8% (which pretty much doubles the risk).

    Reasons for the potential link between obesity and birth defects are unclear, Waller said. It’s possible that some women had undiagnosed diabetes, which also is linked to birth defects, she said.

    Obese women faced double the risk of having babies with spina bifida than women of healthy weight. With spina bifida, the most common disabling birth defect in the United States, the spinal column fails to close properly. That often leads to leg paralysis, learning difficulties and other serious problems.

    Y’know, over here in Australia, we’re being told that the number one thing which will help *reduce* the likelihood of spina bifida is getting the right amount of folic acid. Folic acid is found in a lot of stuff, including dark leafy greens, legumes, and most fruits and vegetables. You need about 400mcg per day if you’re an average size, but if you’re larger than the “average”, your body will need more of it (particularly if you have a baby to nourish as well). According to one site I found, they were recommending 1000mcg of folic acid for “overweight” women. I’d be interested in knowing whether the original study checked things like what the women who had kids with spina bifida were eating, whether they were dieting (or even attempting to “maintain” a steady weight while pregnant, which is effectively dieting), and if so, which “eating plan” they were using to “manage” their weight.

    Let’s see whether there’s a link between an “Atkins” style of diet (low carb, therefore low vegetable, low cereal, and high in dairy and fats – and not-so-incidentally low in folic acid) and an increased rate of spina bifida, shall we?

  14. I know what you mean about the daily ranting being draining. I wish there were more positive stories to report on rather than the constant discrimination, hatred and prejudice type stories I encounter.

  15. Second cab off the rank: the “leptin in formula” article.

    Why do people get fat? We habitually divide the causes of obesity into two categories: genetic predisposition (having lots of overweight relatives) and lifestyle choices (eating too many chips or even, according to a recent study, having fat friends). A new field called developmental programming maintains a third possibility: that obesity, like many aspects of our physiology, can be traced to the months just before and after birth, when the brain and other organs are still fine-tuning themselves.

    I see that ridiculous survey is still making the rounds. Waay too much soup from the one onion there. I do love the way she’s sorting this all into an “either/or” argument. My own (highly unscientific) theory is it’s probably more of an “and” situation.

    He and his colleagues are trying to develop a baby formula with an astonishing property: to turn newborns into those enviable people who can eat what they want without getting fat.

    Oh, right. Presumably in spite of the genetic predisposition, the lifestyle choices, and the whole culture which treats food as though it’s either angelic, demonic, or a combination of both depending on who’s eating it? I have to wonder who’s funding their research… couldn’t *possibly* be one of the big baby formula manufacturers, now could it? That would be entirely too coincidental.

    [*hits “sarcasm” lever with a wrench… bloody thing seems to have got jammed on for some reason*]

    Either way, it’s a big ask for a baby formula.

  16. Third up: What to Wear^H^H^H^H Order When You’re Dating

    Of course, there are always those rare women who order what they want and to heck with what a man might think.

    Oh, you mean the ones who don’t give a shit about what the patriarchy expects? No, they’re not all lesbians. Some of them are folks like me, who realised the game is rigged. I’m never going to fit the cultural “standards” for attractiveness, no matter how hard I diet. I’m never going to be “perfect”. I have next to no chance of “winning” under the current rules. Why the flickering heck should I play by them?

    This means that yes, when I feel like having a steak at a restaurant (very rarely, I must point out – I figure I got enough steak to last me a lifetime living with my parents) I’ll order one. However, if they have an interesting Asian choice, or a paella, biryani, nasi goreng or similar, I’ll probably grab that instead. Failing that, I’ll look at the pasta selection. If I’m going to a steakhouse (which I have done, with Himself, a couple of times) I might have a steak. Or I might not. Lumps of cow with no other flavouring don’t massively interest me.

    Quite frankly, I agree with those commenters over on Pog Mo Thoin who said the article reads like one of those standard Cleo/Cosmo “How To Snag A Man! Quick! Before They’re All Gone!” pieces – you know the ones. Those lovely articles which start by saying “blokes like a girl who isn’t worried about things” and then proceed to give you a list of things to be worried about, followed by a warning that if you don’t give him at least one blowjob per week he’ll vanish, never to return again. (Fortunately for the rest of us, most men don’t read those articles).

  17. Okay, so the entire leptin-enhanced formula story annoys me anyway, but this in particular sends my brain into a logical vapor-lock:

    “Appetite and metabolism are also influenced during this period, the theory goes, and once set are exceedingly difficult to change. The evolutionary advantage of such a mechanism is clear: If a fetus or newborn senses he is entering a world of scarcity, for example, he’d better prepare himself to hang on to every calorie.”

    Okay, soextrapolating from the above argument, if Mom is dieting or otherwise depriving herself of calories, fetus feels deprived and is wired to hang onto calories, right? If Mom is eating healthy and enough calories, despite her weight (we’re not looking at genetic predisposition at the moment, just things that might trigger potential genes) fetus is in an environment that indicates food is readily available (the abundent food environment refered to further into the article). Using the above argument, this would cause people to not need to hang onto every calorie.

    Therefore, our conclusion is that we should intervene early to trigger those genes in a way we want.

    Because as long as you’re skinny, you’re healthy despite what you eat.

    Because messing around with infant metabolism and hormones couldn’t possibly go wrong.

    Because it’s so much easier to change the person to fit the environment, rather than shaping the environment to fit the person.

    Lousy science offends me in a way very few other things can, and this article very clearly demonstrates that the cult of thinness is a aestetic cultural more, and not geared toward health.

  18. In the “teh fatties birth more cripples” story, one thing to keep in mind is that none of the associations below 200% are even legitimate CORRELATIONS, and simply shouldn’t be reported. And even if they were, correlation does not establish causation, although certainly the press and even the medical community USE it to imply causation. Water does not cause child molestation even though 100% of child molesters use water.

  19. Rather than the likely truth that the fat kids were probably so fed up with being hounded about their size, they needed a mental health break.

    Or so stressed out they got physically ill. I missed a ton of school starting with adolescence, both because I was pretty sickly and because some days I just couldn’t face it. In retrospect, I think both can be chalked up to stress.

    But yeah, one way or another, I tried to get out of school pretty much every day of seventh grade, which was the year I was being bullied constantly. It must have really been because I was fat and lazy, though.

  20. Looking at the actual paper wriggles mentioned, and the one in which they developed their method (from 2005), I would wonder whether there is a difference in sugar metabolism between the two groups.

    The 2005 paper had 12 and 17 subjects in two different sections. They mentioned that intake predicted 72% of urinary sugar values, but didn’t mention the actual BMIs of the subjects.

    And 12 or 17 subjects is just crap.

    Kate, if you want these, drop me a line and I’ll send them to you.

  21. I thought The Onion peice was very clever, I also am surprised to see they’re now doing live news parodies.

    The idea was that they’re parodying the idea that people think the thin people are the ones who all are complaining about obesity. Then the fat girl says, I don’t really think that works. Then later after talking about shaming fat people, she’s eating. The point being that in alot of cases, the constant harrassment about Obesity either will make people eat more, or hate themselves more, or both. So humilating obese people is completely useless in fighting obesity. Yet here we are.

    I also liked the comment about, changing the image of starving children in 3rd world countries. To hey, those starving children are having fun!

  22. I couldn’t help laughing when Mr de Lemos states, It’s a day-to-day, meal-to-meal battle, but it’s worth fighting.
    The are interestingly enough no figures quoted except the number of participants and their average age. It’s all inferred.
    I’m also amused by mia’s comments, we shouldn’t eat anything, and we shouldn’t eat it every other day, plus another dig at fat people, even though it’s about waist-to-hip ratio. I’d comment, but they never seem to publish my comments.


  23. So the birth Defect one… Your baby will have a greater chance of having a defect if your obese…. but dont try to lose weight before hand because that may also be a cause for birth defects….

    So what, am i not supose to have kids at all?!

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