Fat, Media, Sweet Machine, You've Got to Be Kidding Me

Well, that about sums it up

Check out this actual headline from the BBC today. Hint: it’s at the bottom of the list.

The story itself is the usual rubbish (accompanied by the ultimate headless fatty, the disembodied stomach) about ZOMG MORE CALORIES and ZOMG MORE CARS. We all know, of course, that all fat people eat five times as much as thin people, and they never ride bikes or take public transportation. Really, you’ve gotta admire the economy of this headline: short, to the point, and vague enough that it doesn’t matter what the content of the story is. Obese blamed for the world’s ills. It’s as simple as that.

72 thoughts on “Well, that about sums it up”

  1. I just saw this and zoomed over.
    It’s at the top now. The top. There’s devastation in Burma, China… And this is what made the top. Good lady…

  2. Oh wow, I had no idea I had so much power! If I had, I’d have shaved my legs. I hope I don’t let it go to my head. If only I could use this power for good instead of evil…

  3. I love that the article says all obese people require the same amount of calories.

    Because that 5’2″, 190lb teenage girl consumes EXACTLY the same amount as a 450lb, 6′ middle aged man. Oh wait, the middle aged man isn’t consuming anything because he’s dead because obese people don’t live to middle age. Duh.

    That brings me to another problem with the study. I mean, it’s God’s Honest Truth that we’re all going to die of obesity by age 35 or so, so doesn’t that mean we’ll ultimately consume fewer resources than all those skinny people who selfishly go on living forever and ever?


  4. Geez…they forgot a whole bunch of other things obesity causes like plagues of locusts, earthquakes, fires, floods and cyclones! C’mon BBC, if you are going to publish the story, at least get the facts RIGHT…. :)

  5. This is such bad logic it’s almost funny. Someone who runs 5 miles a day uses up much more calores than someone who sits on the couch. Even making the assumption that calorie input correlates strongly with weight, they are completely ignoring output. Gym rats would be the bigger culprits with all the energy they are wasting on treadmills.

    It’s still rare that there’s a legitimate article where the horrendous quality of the science completely eclipses the anti-fat sentimetns.

  6. I wish I had something snarky and biting to say, but you know what? I’m tired. I am tired of all of this. I am tired of being an easy scapegoat, a visual target, a punchline to a joke that was never even funny. I wish we could have just one day where this kind of story wasn’t rained down on us like a shit bomb.

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll be better. Today I think I need to go outside and stay there for a while.

  7. oh shit, the obese are eating all the food, driving up the prices so that poor people cant afford food?

    Wait, wait. I thought all poor people were obese.


  8. I said over at Big Fat Blog that if we cause all this devastation in the world, we should rename ourselves The Legion of Doom. Now all we need is some cool evil-sounding names, and our world domination will be complete.

  9. correction, the obese are making fuel more expensive. not eating all the food.

    or somethingsomething.

    Fuck this. I swear they are publishing these articles to annoy us specifically now.

  10. I caught the same story on Reuters today and they managed to make it even MORE offensive, if that is even remotely possible, sans headless fatty.


    Because thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk than rely on cars, a slimmer population would lower demand for fuel for transportation and for agriculture, Edwards said.
    The next step is quantifying how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages, he added.

    “Promotion of a normal distribution of BMI would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food,” Edwards and Roberts wrote

  11. This was in the local “free London rag” this morning and I really couldn’t believe that, on top of the fact that I’m gonna die and might give someone Teh fatz, NOW I’m also responsible for global warming AND the food crisis?


    (PS I’d like to point out that I haven’t owned a car or really driven at all since 1998. Does that mean I can has more to eat??)

  12. Oh, FFS. Yeah, that’s right, BBC, everything wrong with the world is because of us. I’m so grateful to these researchers for calculating my consumption for me without even putting me to the trouble of telling them. I was fascinated to learn that I use more fuel and eat more calories than thin people, since I don’t drive and eat exactly the same as my thin boyfriend.

    What’s next? Our gigantic footfalls when we get off our asses and walk are probably the sole cause of earthquakes, and the atmospheric disturbances caused by our movements (when we go to the kitchen for more doughnuts) create cyclones in poor countries. And the sight of us makes everyone so angry they start unnecessary wars. And our disease-riddled bodies cause plagues. And probably the apocalypse will be caused by the collective weight of fat people making the world implode.

    I’m with Robotitron. I’m sick of this shit.

  13. [i]First of all the increasing demand for food, drives up production.

    This means that agricultural processes are using more oil to meet demand, which contributes to the rising cost of fuel.

    The cost of fuel is then passed on in the cost of food, making it more difficult for poorer areas to afford it.


    The “logic” laid out for how fat directly correlates to rising gas prices and no food for the poor just…baffles! Like the butterfly effect gone haywire! “So, if I eat this baby flavored donut right now, does that mean somewhere in the world a kitten will perish?”

    Oooo but getting to the bottom of the article sheds a bit of happy light. Apparently even folks at the National Obesity Forum think such claims as this article makes (namely that us fatties are going to pollute and destroy the world, making everything REALLY expensive along the way) are bubkus; simple using obesity as a scapegoat. Huzzah for one smidgeon of sanity there…

  14. I actually liked the article. Here’s why: The language distances the BBC from the science; instead of “Obese to blame” they say “Obese blamed” and that distance is maintained throughout. And the final conclusion of the article is a quote saying that the claims put forward by the other experts are “stretching it a bit” and “discriminatory” against an “easy target.”

    So I thought it was a non-radical gentle nudge of the mainstream media towards a saner perspective.

    BUT I haven’t been following the tone of BBC articles on obesity in general. Sorry, on the obesity crisis. Or the obesity epidemic. Or the obesity virus. Or whatever it’s called. Can’t we just stick to OMGTEHFATZ? that’s far simpler.

  15. I just thought, this article matches with my obesity! epidemic! illustration that i plonked out some months ago. like, PERFECTLY. half of its already there in the photo they use.

    still gobsmacked, by the by. Last time i was in a car was over a month ago. Im going to have some more melon.

  16. Well, that’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back. BBC is now on my hit list, yo.
    Yesterday, I found out that they are suing the lady that knitted those cute little adipose creatures: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article3926859.ece

    (y’know, the ones we all went OOOH and AAAAH over when Kate blogged about the episode? https://kateharding.net/2008/04/06/adipositivity-and-doctor-who-spoilers/)

    And now I’m personally responsible for ruining the world as we know it? I seem to remember that the BBC used to have this reputation of being the best news agency in the world. Yeah, not so much of the best now.

  17. Yeah. My sister is skinny, lives in a very large house in the country, and drives a big black SUV, probably many miles a day because things are far from one another. I don’t know how much she eats, but her energy consumption far outpaces mine. I live in an apartment in the city, own a Honda, and don’t drive it every day. And I’m fat. So therefore I’m destroying the world.

  18. This is just to funny and sick to pass up. Let’s play around with the words, shall we?

    Here’s my headline:

    “Obese to blame for all the world’s ills, including, but not limited to: terrorist plots by BinLaden; all suicide bombings; doomsday cults; the plummeting of wildlife; and cheap $100 laptops that may embrace Windows XP but still fucking freeze everytime I try to refresh my screen!”

  19. I really enjoyed the fact that the “experts” didn’t *find* that fat people consumed more calories, through a rigorous study using that pesky scientific method thing….they “calculated” that fat people consumed 18% more calories. Because everyone knows that calculations are always The Truth.

    I’m planning on calculating my bank balance to be somewhere in the seven digit range this evening.

  20. So wait, does this mean all the other headlines are because of THE FAT PEOPLE? We’re causing the extinction of various species of wildlife? We’re causing Bin Laden to target Israel? We’re the cause of the suicide bombing in Sri Lanka??

    I just think it’s funny that 90% of those headlines sound pretty scary and/or upsetting….while the last headline pretty much blames them all on the obese.

    If the obese had this much power, couldn’t we…oh I don’t know….lower gas prices while we’re at it?

  21. I’d rather discover the secret to fusion as a viable source of power, and also have fresh mangos from Bangladesh every day. I mean, if we had that kind of uber-power as is suggested by the headline.

    GRAWRRRR! Cheap energy for all and mangos, too!

  22. Okay, so I was reading the “It’s as simple as that” post while my mom was watching TV, and a Nutrisystem ad came on and said “It’s as simple as that!” while I was still reading it, and it totally cracked me up.

    I had to take a pause from my vacation to post that.

  23. Of course fat people are to blame! For all of it! Bin Laden, the Doomsday cult, the vanishing wildlife. The economy. Under-eye circles. My toe hair.

    Yup. Let’s just blame it all on “obesity.” ‘Cause finding the actual causes and then DOING something about them would be TOO HARD.

  24. I totally feel you Robitron. I too am tired. But more then tired I’m actually, for the first time in a while, scared. I didn’t read the article, but the headline is so frightening. Almost irresponsibly so.
    I lived in Germany for five years and saw a newspaper with a frighteningly similar headline from before WWII, only substitute the word Jews for the the word Obese.

    Disclaimer: I am not comparing the obese with Jews or any other minority group, I am giving a comparison of the old newspaper I saw, and this headline. Take from it what you will.

  25. I, too, looked at that headline and thought that “they” are now looking for scapegoats. And “we’re” it. (I mean, scapegoats.)

    It is so very frustrating. People see nonsense like that article all the time. Even if someone doesn’t stop to read the article they still see the headline. But sanity? (By this I mean sanity about fat.) You just don’t see sane notions about fat everywhere you go.

  26. Oh and… The CEO of Exxon was on the Today Show this week. This company is making profits totalling 11 billion dollars a quarter. I believe profit indicates anything after overhead and basically anything ending up in the pockets of the shareholders and employees of the company. Yet, this company is unable to do ANYTHING to reduce gas prices, in effect lowering prices across the board for food manufacturing and distributing. Nope, they have to make these sorts of profits…because…well just because. Yet, the people to blame here are fat people gobbling up food and driving their fat asses up the block to buy a candy bar.

  27. When I first saw that I read it as “Obese blame the world for ill’s”, but the real wording is just as bad.

    At least the Dr. Haslam guy at the end of the article said that it was ‘stretching it a bit’ to blame the obese and that the climate change and price increase are more complex than they say in the article.

  28. So the child smuggling ring that supports our food habit has gone unnoticed? *steeples fingers* Eeeeexcellent!

  29. One thing I’ve been thinking about over the past few days is how by allowing the problem to be framed as obesity has really been a giant distraction.
    I wish I had been able to understand earlier on how the excesses of the wealthy are somehow admired, but any excess fat on the bodies of ordinary people are sinful.
    What’s sinful is how much wealth has been accumulated in the past 25 years by the world’s wealthiest, and there have been no limits placed on what they can do to make money. Yet, we are somehow to blame for buying the products and eating the food produced when there were no limits placed on how much the wealthy could exploit, pollute and distroy.
    I recognize my responsibility in this, not by being fat, but by not holding my government responsible for setting stricter limits on what corporations could do, not demanding that those who have accumulated more wealth pay more taxes and get less breaks.
    I know that when I’ve had these thoughts in the past, I’ve felt there was nothing I could do.
    There is plenty I can do.

  30. I wish I had been able to understand earlier on how the excesses of the wealthy are somehow admired, but any excess fat on the bodies of ordinary people are sinful.

    Quite right. Everyone oohs and aahs about monstrosities like this., but suggest that fat people might be eating slightly more or using a bit more fuel than everyone else, and the contempt is unleashed. It strikes me as similar to the way it’s okay for the wealthy to use up as many resources as they can afford to pay for, but if a poor family dares to collect benefits while owning a TV, for example, they’re sneered at. People focus inordinately on the personal responsibilities of average people, so the ones at the top of the ladder never have to get called out at all.

  31. You know what the worst part is for me? That it’s just another drop in the bucket. That people will read it, accept it, upload into their existing set of prejudices and move on. Move right on into the real world, were I have to exist side by side with them. And there I am, right out in the open, destroying not only myself (in their estimation) but the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. Bad fatty! I’m trying to laugh at it, I really am, but it just feels so bad. It makes me feel kind of lonely. Boooohisssss!

  32. One thing I’ve been thinking about over the past few days is how by allowing the problem to be framed as obesity has really been a giant distraction.

    Excellent point. Instead of looking at the real issues (global warming, for instance, has a huge component coming from China, but we’re not about to go attacking them for it.) we find an easy scapegoat to avoid challenging the consumption of the wealthy.

  33. The title sounds like a jab against the scientists, or at least that’s how I read it. The title isn’t “Obese cause world ills”, it’s just that they are “blamed” for them. Which is all too true.

    It’s too bad you have to read through the whole article before you see:

    “Really, it is discriminatory towards obese people. They are an easy target at the moment, but I think the causes of climate change and rising food prices is much more complex.”


  34. Great logic. Accordingly, tall people and people who exercise are also using up more of the world’s energy and causing environmental damage.

    How about “final solution” of general malnourishment to prevent anyone from getting fat, growing tall or having the energy to exercise!

    More seriously, this has some quite disturbing undertones. Obesity disproportionally affects minorities and the disadvantaged. By proxy, they are thus blaming the world’s ills on those people.

    How does this make it to the BBC? They’re supposed to be enlightened and progressive.

  35. I suppose I wasn’t supposed to look at the furry round belly picture in the article and squeal “OOOHHHH!!! How cute! I want to snorgle eeeet!”
    Sorry, my aesthetic programming chip must be broken today and I’m objectifying that poor headless man.

  36. I had to do a double take on the name of that article, I mean it’s almost like it’s some sort of world takeover plan by Pinky & The Brain.

    “I have an idea Pinky, let’s tell the world that all the fat people are taking away their money and food. Then while all the people are in an uproar, we’ll TAKE OVER THE WORLD!”

    “Zort! But if all the fat people are being blamed for being fat, then what will happen to lazy-boy chairs?”

    Seriously, it sounds that rediculous. Maybe someone should e-mail them saying, “You know if you removed the word Obese and replaced it with the world Jew, you’d be called a Nazi. Hmm…see a connection there?”

    Off-topic, I just got a poll text on my Sidekick. They asked who’s the best boy band, and one of the choices was The Beatles. Ok, why even make the poll? Nobody is better than The Beatles, nobody!

  37. I know when they talk about fuel consumption, they mean car fuel (right?), but is home fuel at a risk of depleting? Because when I was fatter, I was hot ALL THE TIME, and never turned the radiator on in winter. Now that I’ve lost 50 lbs., I have to keep turning the heat up higher in winter.

    So therefore – aren’t thinner people (who are usually complaining about being cold) using up more resources than fat people when it comes to home heating oil? So how come no one mentions that?

  38. The headlines could say ‘Obese Man on the Moon’. It doesn’t matter. All people see is the word ‘obese’ and they think ‘those darn fat people are at it again!’ It’s like the media has a list of hot headline words and ‘obese’ is in the top 5 so they keep using it.

  39. Yet, this company is unable to do ANYTHING to reduce gas prices, in effect lowering prices across the board for food manufacturing and distributing. Nope, they have to make these sorts of profits…because…well just because.

    Yep. I also agree with Mikey T that all that gym equipment is also consuming power. On a tangent here, but just a small detail to show that (duh) all of this is much more complicated than they want to make it, I recall that the electric bill in one of the apartments we lived in before we bought our house was astronomical. I don’t really know why; we’re the kind of people who use the a/c during the summer, but keep the heat at 62 or 63 and pile on lots of clothes and blankets in the winter. The bills in our current big 130-year-old house are lower for some unknown reason. So we apparently have less of a “carbon footprint” now without even consciously doing anything. Of course the larger point stands, that you have no idea just from looking at them whether an obese vs. a thin person uses more energy and resources–and do we really want to get into “regulating” that kind of thing on an individual level anyway, because who’s to say Person A doesn’t use more energy because the job an hour away was the only one she could get–but that’s just a small example of how this stuff is nowhere near as tidy as people want it to be.

    I have to concur that I sort of like the straightforwardness of the headline. They really aren’t dancing around anything with that one. And you can sort of take it as being written in a skeptical light, as many of you have observed.

  40. I know when they talk about fuel consumption, they mean car fuel (right?), but is home fuel at a risk of depleting? Because when I was fatter, I was hot ALL THE TIME, and never turned the radiator on in winter. Now that I’ve lost 50 lbs., I have to keep turning the heat up higher in winter.

    Last winter I had to keep opening my windows because my crazy-ass downstairs neighbors thought we were in the next ice age. Heat travels up, I was being baked alive! What is so hard for them about “put on a sweater” I’ll never know, but without their heat on I was just fine and dandy. Fat in cold climates is an adaptive trait, it’s called “insulation”.

    I can’t be blamed for all the worlds ills because I’m too poor to eat more than a “normal” person and I can’t afford to get in the car and just go wherever I want. Somehow I doubt science and economics reporters are going to give my fat ass a pass.

  41. The “article” that this BBC story is based on is actually a letter to the editor in Lancet. It’s maybe 500 words, has 3 references, and their conclusions are based on hypothetical calculations that they basically made up.

    It’s NOT SCIENCE. It’s the authors’ opinion. Yet it’s being broadcast around the world like it’s valid, rigorous, observation-based research. Are most people going to register at Lancet to read the full article? No. The average person can’t tell real science from opinion masquerading as objective fact.

    This is such bullshit. It’s just some asshole’s opinion and YOU KNOW it will make the world at large hate fat people even more, and will bolster government attempts to discriminate against fat folks.


  42. I would just like to state for the record that fat does not necessarily equal “hot all the time.” I’m 5’3 and well over 300 lbs (with lots of muscle), but if the temp drops below 70 degrees I get cold really fast unless I am walking hard or working out. I am sometimes the despair of my bf, who is skinny but tolerant of a much wider range of temperatures.

    On a related topic, I sweat pretty normally for a fat chick. That is, I am not sweaty all the time just because I’m fat. When I was a fat teenager, I assumed I sweated because I was fat, but then I lost 70 pounds (frog-marched to WW by my mother) and found I sweated pretty much the same at 150 lbs as I did at 225. At 300+ I am no sweatier than I was at lesser weights.

    Just doing my part to dispel the “fat people are hot and sweaty all the time” idea.

  43. MacNabb, I’ve also been sweaty at a variety of weights. No more now than when I was much thinner. I don’t get cold fast at all, though, since I’ve entered the latter half of my forties…ahem… “personal summers” anyone?

  44. That headline makes me angry…here I am, trying to do my part in changing the world (going to school and becoming a pastor), and all the media can do is tell me I’m ruining the world simply because of the way my body looks.


    Sorry…I’m really tired today, and I have a low tolerance for stupidity when I’m exhausted.

  45. MacNabb: I don’t know how true this is and I don’t have any links, but I’ve heard that people who are in better shape tend to sweat more, as it helps their bodies cool more efficiently. It may be total BS, who knows, but I’d concur that body weight probably has little to do with sweat.

    This is totally anecdotal, but I was probably about 10 pounds heavier in late high school/early college than I am now (although I’m 2 pant sizes smaller — I was a 12, now I’m about an 8), but I transformed from a semi-active person to a marathon runner several years ago (and I also started lifting weights a few years ago). Though my weight is a little less and my body size definitely smaller than it was then, I sweat BUCKETLOADS more doing normal, everyday activities (I’m talking about grocery shopping or walking to class, not going on a 20 mile run, though I certainly get really freaking sweaty on those). I’ve never noticed “fat” people sweating any more than “thin” people or “average” people. The only real differences I’ve noticed with people and sweat is that men sweat a helluva lot more than women on average. The stereotype of the sweaty fat person doesn’t seem to have much basis, in my experience.

    And that headline? IS DISGUSTING. It has no basis in reality, and I wonder if it was just written because some editor at BBC thought that it would generate more clicks. Could the fact that, oh, the world has never held upwards of 6 billion people before account for increased resource consumption?

  46. @himawari: I have periods of working out regularly and periods of not working out regularly, and I’ve been in pretty good shape and less good shape, but always extremely muscular– always have been. It never changed anything, sweat-wise.

    That sweat theory smells like BS to me.

    “The stereotype of the sweaty fat person doesn’t seem to have much basis, in my experience.”

    I think that can be safely said for pretty much *any* stereotype about fat people.

  47. I actually love this article. It’s so over the top and ridiculous, the tone so obnoxious, that I highly doubt anyone could possibly take it seriously. And it quite nicely compacts all the “OMG OBESITY boogah boogah” into an easily read short article.

    Certainly helped convince my skinny friend that hey, maybe this obesity panic is not real.

  48. “Promotion of a normal distribution of BMI would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food,” Edwards and Roberts wrote

    Um, there IS a normal distribution of BMI. Like most inherited traits, weight falls on a bell curve. If everybody who is fat lost weight? We wouldn’t have a normal distribution anymore. This makes me stabby and causes me to *headdesk*.

  49. I think that can be safely said for pretty much *any* stereotype about fat people.


  50. oh my god. there is so much wrong with that damn article. mulheresperta, good to know that my suspicion that the “calculations” consisted of pulling numbers out of their bony asses was correct. What bullshit.

    And we do in fact have good ideas about what is ACTUALLY driving up global food prices. Things like grain crops being used for biofuels, (which are an inefficient way to produce energy and also the changes in farming practices associated with growing for biofuel causes more environmental damage) and the increase in demand for meat from developing countries where the standard of living is increasing. China, for example, has changed from a net exporter of grain to a net importer of grain because of increases in meat consumption among its 1.2 BILLION PEOPLE (how many fat people are there in the US and Europe? a lot fucking less than there are people in China or India).

    This kind of info is not even controversial or hard to find out, if your head isn’t stuck up your.ass looking for ways to hate fat people.


  51. You know, I’m not gonna have that second baby flavored donut today. Now I’ll just sit back and wait for the surely immediate fall in gas prices because of this action.


  52. Oh, and um, “The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine”??? WTF??!? I mean, London School of Economics = credible. University of London = credible. Kings College London = credible. But the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine? Never heard of them until yesterday that is.

  53. My husband asked me last night if reading these blogs have been helping me. I said yes because I’m learning not to apologize for the shape of my body. I talked about FA and HAES, then I pointed out this thread and read a bunch of the comments to him. He thought y’all were absolutely hysterical (in a good way)!

    Your comments were witty, intelligent, touched with just the right amount of sarcasm… they totally destroy the stereotype of “fat people are stupid.” From what I’ve been reading on the FA blogs recently, it appears to me that people with “generous curves” have “generous hearts.” Skinny society is shooting themselves in the foot by ostracizing fat people. There’s so much it could learn if it just embraced fat people instead of scorning them!! (And it’d have a lot more fun to boot! *vbg* )

  54. Why does London need a School of Tropical Medicine anyway? Oh wait, it must be all that global warming we are causing, London is obviously becoming a tropical climate…

  55. I would love to say “unbelievable” but we all know it is very believable, so I’ll just say Jeez! instead.

    I did scoot off to see if there was any british media on public transport usage, but I found this story about a woman bus driver, & I take my hat off to commenter ‘Mr Ozone Layer’

  56. I am a little curious about why The Headless Fatty in the photo appears to be wearing diapers. I mean, I know fat is unattractive and will kill you and all, but does it make you incontinent too? Perhaps the obesity epidemic is all a plot by the makers of Depends?

    I can’t even get headdeskingly mad about the article, it’s really just too laughable. Are we absolutely sure it’s not a spoof?

  57. I don’t have a car and neither does my overweight brother. My 2 skinny brothers own cars. Tosh, utter tosh!

  58. The London School of whateverthehell is part of the University of London. That said, there is no respectable institution without a stash of wingnuts.

    When I read that headline, I thought it had been stolen from The Onion.

  59. i’m late to the party, as usual, but has anyone mentioned the factor of how much electricity is used by health clubs and gyms in the efforts to get skinny and/or fit?

    i mean, all those treadmills and stairmasters, all those heated swmming pools, &c, not to mention the crazy A/C bills that go with keeping a room full of sweaty bodies cool and comfortable.

    don’t get me wrong, i work out regularly and love it. but it’s something that i think about as i ride the stationary bike or run on the elliptical trainer. i am not contributing to the global health of the planet by consuming this service, regardless of what it does for my health.

  60. Coming to this VERY late…the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is the University of London’s school of public health. The name is left over from the days of the Raj, old chum. And this article is crap. Cheerio!

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