Fat, Health at Every Size


Sorry I haven’t written much of substance here this week, y’all. All my righteous ranting energy went into this yesterday, and quite frankly, I’m just a little burnt out on absorbing fat hate enough to respond to it right now. Rest assured, I will recover soon and be back rantier than ever, but every now and then, I just have to take a break from it, or I will lose my fucking mind. The good news is, you guys seem to be doing just fine without me, so here, have some more stuff to discuss.

1) As an antidote to all the horror stories, Fat Lot of Good has an incredibly heartening doctor-visit story.

2) Aaaand back to the horror (H/T one of the Rowans):

To curtail Japan’s overweight population, the Japanese health ministry recently mandated that all waistlines among its 56 million workers over age 40 be below “regulation size” of 33.5 inches (for men). Any company failing to bring its employees’ weight under control–as well as the weights of their family members–will be fined up to 10% of its earnings by the government.

3) Pakistan is in danger of a food shortage, which is just awful, and I don’t mean to trivialize the very serious point of this article. But I must remark on one interesting detail:

The [World Food Programme] estimates that anyone consuming less than 2,350 calories per day is below the food security line.

Fascinating. (H/T Shapeling Jennifer.)

4) Stop the presses: thin people get heart disease, too. Another stab in the heart of the BMI, but wouldn’t it be swell if they called it something other than “normal-weight obesity”? (H/T Shapeling CJ.)

Update: 5) The Rotund is looking for a co-blogger!

Update 2: Feeling burnt out yourself? Go watch A BABY OTTER DOING BABY OTTER THINGS.

47 thoughts on “Linkies”

  1. “Specifically, significantly more of the normal weight obese had a high waist circumference, elevated triglyceride levels, elevated fasting blood sugar levels or a diagnosis of diabetes, and other metabolic markers associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

    So since my triglyceride levels, fasting blood sugar levels, and other metabolic markers are normal, can I claim that I am obese-weight normal? I mean, does this swing the other way? If people with a “healthy” BMI are actually secretly Obese, then what does that mean for “obviously” obese people who are otherwise healthy? Or is “obese” the new catch-word for undesireable health?

  2. It is inconvenient when we burn out at the same time.

    Also, “obese-weight normal” is hilarious.

  3. Geez, that note on Japan is really scary to me. I really want to live there – and, necessarily, work there – and this terrifies me! I know on general they have smaller frames, thus smaller bodies, thus less patience for fat Americans like myself already. This is not good news!
    The level of government intervention in the lives of its citizens is mind-boggling. The effects of this act seem so obvious to me – people will do what they must to conform, whether its healthy or not. Those who cannot conform, will be shunned or fired. The impact on social acceptance of fat outside the workplace will also be heavy. Imagine – that guy cost me/my husband/my dad his job because his fatness caused the company to be fined, necessitating cutbacks, and now I’m/he’s unemployed and our family’s in trouble! In this case, being fat does hurt others, I guess. Or imagine the guy who gets his company fined because he couldn’t make his wife or child lose enough weight. That guy’s work life is going to be miserable – and his wife or kid is going to feel terrible as well. Fat-shaming on the grand scale.
    I hope this is understandable- I’m really upset by this.

  4. My mind is blown that there are people calling for ye olde Shakes to be LESS of a feminist space. Because, dude, feminism is what DEFINES Shakesville.

  5. Stuff like that program in Japan is why I am one of the few liberal Americans who DOES NOT want to go live in one of the much-touted first-world socialist utopias (ie Sweden, Iceland, etc). I think when there is that level of government interference in one’s personal life, Bad Things start happening. One of the bad things is this kind of conform or else mandate. I’d much prefer to reform the American system to be more fair and just than adopt a kind of system where the government could start taking extreme measures to control your weight (for instance, or how you educate your kids, etc) and no one would blink.

    As it is we come too close to being that controlling here sometimes, and without the social safety net.

  6. So… is obese a medical word to describe people with a large amount of body fat or is it a word that means “has risk factors for _____ disease”

    That makes my head hurt.

  7. Dear Kate. You do a tremendous job. You help hundreds or thousands of people reading this webpage to keep their head high and deal with those asshats out there. In nearly every thread I read comments by people writing how much you help them, every day, literally all over the word. I wish I could adequately express how much you do, every day, for so many people out there. I am so sorry that you feel exhausted. This is not meant as a “hey, keep it coming, we need you ” (well, that, too), but mainly as …. “you are made of awsome!”
    So, today, if I may suggest, put your feet up, I’ll get your bunny slippers and the plate of fresh baby-flavoured donuts. And a newly knitted Adipose Alien to cuddle with. And lots of pictures of puppies and kittens. With tiny bunny slippers.

  8. The effects of this act seem so obvious to me – people will do what they must to conform, whether its healthy or not.

    No kidding. I am hoping against hope that the number of bulimics and suicides does not skyrocket there as a result of this, but I’m not holding my big fat breath.

  9. So, today, if I may suggest, put your feet up, I’ll get your bunny slippers and the plate of fresh baby-flavoured donuts. And a newly knitted Adipose Alien to cuddle with. And lots of pictures of puppies and kittens. With tiny bunny slippers.

    Aw, thank you, Skreee!

    (And unfortunately, “hundreds of thousands” overestimates our readership by… hundreds of thousands. :) But it is thousands strong and growing, which I am absolutely thrilled about and grateful for.)

  10. It is inconvenient when we burn out at the same time.

    No kidding. Half the reason I wrote that rant over at Shakes yesterday was because the other contributors who felt the same were too frustrated to write about it. It’s awesome when taking turns works out, but you probably need, like, 20 people to guarantee that there will always be at least one who’s not burnt out.

  11. Oh, man, tiny puppies in tiny bunny slippers…. Makes me want to curl up and take a nap right now.

    Kate, thanks for adding the link! I have been feeling the burnout, too, and I don’t post in half the places you do – it’s in the air, that’s for damn sure.

  12. It is inconvenient when we burn out at the same time.

    Agreed! Thanks for carrying on, Shapelings!

  13. So today, on my campus, I saw someone wearing a shirt that said “I AM in shape. Round is a shape.” ;)

    Also, the what our mothers wanted to do thread at Shakes broke my heart. But in a good way, if you know what I mean.

  14. speaking of tiny puppies with tiny bunny slippers:

    Chmurka - fashion victim!

    (from cute overload)

    feel better SP ladies : )

  15. Take the break, folks. God knows you’ve more than earned it.

    I shared the idea that food is a morally netural proposition with one of my friends yesterday (I believe I incorporated the sentence, “The baby Jesus does not cry when you eat cake”), and that you can’t have an epidemic of something that’s a) not contagious and b) not a disease.

    I think it broke her, in the best possible way. She brought both points up again today and seemed really fucking happy about them. I pointed her over this direction for more on the subject, and I have hopes she might take on the FA message for real. Youse are converting people who’ve never even heard of you — good effort.

  16. I want tiny Adipose Aliens in bunny slippers.

    (diez of teh kute)

    I think everyone who writes pretty much every single day is going to have burn outs once in a while. We can be patient while we wait for the next flaming rant of glory.

    Besides, I enjoy reading Shapely Prose when it’s a collection of links I may have missed or readers discussing what’s neat as much as I enjoy the fire and brimstone glory rants. This is a great place to hang and chew the fatosphere.

  17. You know the only thing cuter than baby otters? GROWN UP OTTERS HOLDING HANDS.

    (The best bit’s at 1:15. Oh, heart.)

  18. (with apologies to The Secret…)

    Doughnuts, foot rubs, and scented candles!! Being sent your way!! Visualizing them while commenting can make it so!!!!

    *scrunches up face, thinks really hard*

    Did it work?

  19. Oh Kate, I feel for you right now. I had a total burnout/emotional breakdown day at school yesterday (two weeks left in the semester and I’m pulling my hair out). Let’s get some rest, and soon you’ll be back to your awesome stick-it-to-the-fat-haters self, and I’ll be back to my Hebrew-translating-aspiring-theologian/pastor self.

  20. Odd that a “normal” waist size for males would be determined to be 33.5. My husband, one of those tall and skinny types, is a 34 and has been since I met him. How are they determining this? They do understand that the body – waist, hips, thighs, arms….yadda yadda yadda….is never uniform in either over all weight but in height as well??

  21. Aww, otters! I must continue to remind myself that kidnapping an otter would be morally wrong.

    Dear Kate, completely off-topic and possibly a little creepy; you were in my dream the other day! You, my friend Ems and I were in Fortnum and Mason drinking tea and you and Ems told me the colour of my top suited me and I should by some no pyjamas in that colour. I looked down and I was wearing pyjamas. In Fortnum and Mason’s! Surely there’s a dress code! Oh the horror. Then the dream progressed to other things, including me turning out to be pregnant, which since this was right after I read the latest aunt fattie post leads me to conclude you have some pretty strong subliminal influencers written into your code.

    Sorry for the complete randomness of this and I promise next time we have dream afternoon tea I will be in appropriate attire.

  22. Odd that a “normal” waist size for males would be determined to be 33.5. My husband, one of those tall and skinny types, is a 34 and has been since I met him. How are they determining this?

    Seriously, I wonder where they got this number. That just seems really small to be “the largest you can be or ELSE!” That’d put me in a women’s Medium/size 10ish, I’d think, so that seems kind of ridiculous to me. I mean — the whole concept is offensive and ridiculous, don’t get me wrong, but that’s….well, to borrow a weird phrase — that’s beyond the pale.

  23. happyapple, the Pale.

    Beyond it you’re out here with us heathen Irish, dancing and drinking and god knows what else. It’s just not civillised. :D

  24. Yeah wtf is with the waist circumference crap? My husband was underweight and somewhat scrawny when he had a 32 inch waist. That’s really small for a man of any height at all.

    Maybe I’m in an unusually surly mood but that particular detail just really made me want to slap the “researchers” around.

  25. Surprised, and yet not, by the Japanese’s companies weight rule- the emphasis on slimness is beyond what most people could imagine and companies are even allowed access to employee medical records (one thing they told us when we came to work here is to be careful if we’re having an abortion/std treatment/anything that could reflect on our “character” because old-school doctors will let your employer know).

    The recommended size is small, but most young Japanese guys are around there or smaller (though everyone gains wait when they’re older). I am 123 (and 5’5”) and most of the guys I’ve dated here have weighed less than me and we could have easily shared clothes. XD; They’ve also mostly told me I’m fat…Japanese girls are expected to stay around 99 lbs (45kg).

    government involvement+craze for skinniness=Japan.

  26. I’ve really been headdesking over the whole govt mandated weight thing, given that I.


    Yeah, I live in Japan. This is complete and utter bollocks, truly.

    However, note please that it gives a maximum for men’s> waist sizes. Women? Nah. Women are already ridiculously discriminated against in the workforce, and will often find it hard to get hired if they aren’t conventionally attractive and slim. Japan doesn’t have anti-discrimination laws, as far as I’m aware.

    From a personal point of view though, I’m probably safe as 1. I’m foreigner and I’m expected to be fat, and 2. I expect this will be restricted to government jobs and big companies, a category into which English schools do not fall into. (A high percentage of foreign workers in Japan are English teachers).

    It’s still fucking appalling though.

    Also, baby flavoured doughnuts to Kate, Fillyjonk and Sweetmachine – I love the work you guys do here. :)

  27. Ottttttttttttters made me happy. The Doctor visit story made me happy. My doctor looked at me like I was a Martian. Needless to say, I’m getting a new one.

  28. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!

    Normal weight obesity? Doesn’t that sound like a whole lot of trouble coming up?! Soon they will start measuring everyone’s body fat instead of just their BMIs! All of a sudden, 80% of the population will be “obese” and they’re going to tell us that it’s all our own fault! “Obesity crisis has reached unmentionable dimensions!” Underweight people will be told to reduce their amounts of body fat! Waaaaaahh! *hides under the covers*

  29. Well, Zilly, I think if 80% of the population, including those previously categorised as underweight, start feeling victimised by the government and start having their invisible fat conflated with a host of negative character traits instead of saintliness and moral superiority by the media, (to quote the Kaiser Chiefs), I predict a riot.

  30. I hope that the fat people that identify themselves as ‘obese’ are now waking up to the fact that obesity is not interchangeable with the word fat, it is in fact a ‘disease’.

  31. Hi everyone, long time no comment, but with reading this thread, particularly about the Mayo Study, I needed to say:

    The Brits already covered this ‘issue’ in 2006, and better (they concluded you need to look INSIDE a body to be able to draw conclusions – but oops for all health care systems: that would cost some serious money if you had to do it with every patient). Check out this article in The Guardian:


    The Brits – as they like their acronyms – dubbed the thin at risk for disease “tofis” (thin outside, fat inside). Although unfortunately there’s still some automatic ‘Britain has a waistline crisis’ bull there, the article is worth a read, I think. Some quotes (sorry, don’t know how to place these things into the cute yellow quote frames, or turn something bold or italic, so the capitals are my emphases):

    “ ‘Doctors are increasingly concerned that people can look slim on the outside but still have a problem with fat.’ […] Bell has spent years studying how human beings store and use their adipose tissue, or fat. He has carried out studies showing that people who would be considered slim can have large quantities of fat within them. ‘This is particularly true of MEN who have a slim build but who do little or no exercise,’ he said.”

    Men – interesting, as women are so much easier perceived as fat.

    “Genes also play an ENORMOUS role.”

    Sounds like the reporter jotting this down was amAAAAAzed by that.

    “Britain has a waistline crisis, with study after study warning that at least two-thirds of us are heading for a life of chronic illness and disability because of our weight. […] BUT IS IT POSSIBLE that doctors and the public have become SIDETRACKED by BMI? […] The problem with BMI is that most rugby players, sporting heavy muscles, would come out with a high BMI when in fact they have low levels of visceral fat. […] In JAPAN, sumo wrestlers have been put through MRI scanners to look at their fat composition. Even though they have a BMI of 56 and are eating up to 5,000 calories a day, they have very little internal fat. ‘They have low cholesterol, they have low insulin resistance and a low level of triglycerides [fatty acids],’ said Bell. ‘Their fat is all stored under the skin, on the outside.’ ”

    So, particularly in Japan, they should know better! Also: you can “cure” lots of visceral fat by exercising (although the article doesn’t say how much you need, but probably the well-known half an hour a day of moderate exercise like walking or biking would suffice).

    And I loved this quote:

    “ ‘Over the past five years, we’ve DEMONISED FAT AND BECOME OBSESSED WITH OBESITY, which is mostly talked about in TERMS OF WEIGHT LOSS. But what matters is where it is distributed. As you lose weight, it tends to go from the top and bottom of your body first, so it can become concentrated in the abdomen. That is the most dangerous zone of all, and IT’S POSSIBLE THAT GOING ON A CONSTANT SERIES OF DIETS ACTUALLY ENCOURAGES THE STORAGE OF FAT IN THIS REGION.’ […] Body shape is often governed by genetic factors. People shaped like apples, carrying excess weight in the abdomen, are more at risk than those built like pears, who deposit fat in the hips, thighs and backsides. Women tend to fall into the latter category. CONSTANT DIETING MAY INTERFERE with the way the body lays down fat, and there is evidence that this will increase visceral fat.’ ”

    Well, I would’ve liked to have known that when I was twelve, as I’ve turned from a pear to an apple after all those years of dieting (about twenty of them).

    But anyway: do some exercise and stop dieting, that might help you to become/stay healthy, and don’t forget genetics, is basically the bottom line of this researcher’s thoughts. Hmm, I kinda like that concept. I’m just sorry these researchers are STILL NOT teaming up to say: BMI BULLSHIT, let’s focus on more important things like ending world poverty or something along those lines. It’s like everyone is walking around in the dark and not really trying to find the exit.

    As for the WHO estimate, that’s probably a not-quite-accurate average of 2,000 (women) and 2,500 (men). Actually, fat people need more calories to sustain their weight, but then again, no one wants us to know that, because we need to LOSE weight of course (which with that silly calories-in-calories-out theory should work if a person who needs 2,300 were to eat only 2,000 a day…)

    Well, sorry for the long post – but I do need to add: the baby otter made my day, I’m smiling for the rest of it!

    PS Kate: I’m totally gonna read some more over at Shakespeare’s Sister, you rock there too!

  32. I think “low-BMI Syndrome X” or “Petite Syndrome X” would be a more accurate label than “normal-weight obese.”

    My skinny diabetic friend – probably formerly a case of Petite Syndrome X – is an enthusiastic proponent of laying off the baby donuts if you’ve got jelly in the belly, but he agrees that the goal is not to get rid of jelly in the belly and even understands that the visceral fat is harmless in itself. It’s simply a side effect of overworked insulin doing its job as much as it’s been able to, according to him, and the production of the belly fat is actually how your body is keeping your blood sugar from reaching toxic levels.

  33. The thing that caught my attention about #4 was the levels they cited for body fat.

    See, I read this book called The Fit Or Fat Woman that said the only reliable measure of fatness was body-fat-percentage. The doctor who wrote it said that 33% body fat was normal for an American woman. Completely normal, nothing to worry about, fine and healthy. 25% was ideal, but few people could reach that. Olympic-level female athletes get down to 18% body fat, but at that level you stop menstruating because your body doesn’t trust the food supply to support pregnancy.

    So, 33% was normal in The Fit Or Fat Woman. This Mayo Clinic team is defining 30% body fat as obesity.

  34. I lived in Japan for a few years, and some aspects of health care there are truly appalling. I worked for a town government, and every year, all employees were required to participate in an annual physical (including a CHEST X-RAY. Yes, a complete chest x-ray, every year. They apparently think this is the best way to screen for tb). All employees were given a time and went through during the course of the day. There were stations set up all throughout the building, and people lined up and shuffled through the stations in order. Everything was done out in the open in a way that everyone around could see the examinations of everyone else, although things that required clothing removal were done behind a curtain. Furthermore, the confidentiality of the exam results was very questionable. My second year on the job, having already had to submit to two of these exams my first year (I was required to do an exam when I arrived in August, and then another when the normal annual exam occurred in April), I refused the exam, mostly because I was worried about the radiation from ANOTHER chest x-ray (I had to get a chest x-ray before I left for Japan as well, so I had 3 in the course of the year before that for simply administrative reasons), but also because I had been struggling to avoid an ED relapse and I was worried about getting on a scale. They put up a stink, but because I was a foreigner and I was only going to be there for four months after the exam was done, I managed to get away with it.

    What we are dealing with here is a system where everyone is required to conform. As the saying goes, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Most Japanese are slim, so 33.5 inches is not a particularly small waistline for a man there, although I am quite certain that many of my male coworkers (and some of my female ones) had a waist larger than 33.5 in. (As a size 6-8, I had to shop at the back of the rack in the women’s department. Sometimes even those clothes were too small, and when they did fit, they often didn’t fit my western “pear-shaped” body well.) However, this is disgusting to the extreme. There is already lots of discrimination that goes on in hiring in Japan, and this will surely just add to the laundry list of “undesirable” qualities in an employee.

    The dieting culture in Japan can get quite extreme at times. I’ve seen several Japanese TV programs that invite large women on as guests, and then proceed to taunt them before having them go on a diet. I remember one TV show in particular where they had a girl come on who was about 5’2″ and 200 pounds; they analyzed and made fun of her diet; they calculated that she ate 10,000 calories a day, which I’m guessing was probably a huge overestimation. In “before and after” pictures in magazines, the “before” pictures are usually healthy looking average or somewhat slim girls; the “after” pictures tend to look emaciated (it’s important that the legs don’t touch in the middle). As a foreigner, I was usually exempt from this, as foreigners are expected to be fat. As a size 6-8 US, I was fat to many of them. I think the fact that I’m a long distance runner and I don’t like meat caused a lot of cognitive dissonance to the people around me.

    Anyway, I apologize for rambling somewhat off-topic; I guess the article on the new draconian measures in Japan brought up a lot that has bothered me for quite a while. The idea of financially punishing people simply for being larger than average makes my blood boil.

  35. Everything himawari said is true, and it’s sad but not surprising that nothing has changed in the 15 years since I lived there.

    Whatever people (justifiably) complain about in regards to discrimination here in the west–U.S., and I’m assuming other countries–I felt like kissing the ground when I came back after living in Japan for five years, and working in one of the most conservative (read: backward) environments. The level of fat hatred, not to mention general disdain for women, is truly astounding. Impossibly thin Japanese women who worked with me were teased for being chubby. I never felt so much like a piece of meat on display. Meanwhile, men smoke like chimneys everywhere in public and no one has a discussion about the effects on people’s health….(could be this has changed, but I tend to doubt it). As much as I appreciated many things about Japan, I was so happy to leave.

    Japanese people can be wonderfully kind, but there is a really strong bullying aspect to the culture, so be prepared for it if you want to go live there. If you’re a gaijin, but if you’re female in particular, being thin won’t even get you off the hook because you can still be too old (another blatant source of discrimination), too tall, too analytical, too whatever. Aaargh.

  36. LOL, obese-weight normal! That’s me – I just had my cholesterol & BP & glucose & all that stuff checked, so I know I’m good :)

  37. Oops, tyop in my website above. Not that you care, but it *is* a food blog. Strawberry jam & clotted cream post recently…

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