Exercise, Fat, Health at Every Size, Politics

The Candidates on Obesity

Paul covered it so I don’t have to. Yay!

Here’s the McCain quote from last night’s debate that sparked his post and this one:

The rise of obesity amongst young Americans is one of the most alarming statistics that there is. We should have physical fitness programs and nutrition programs in schools. Every parent should know what’s going on there.

As Paul notes, “the rise of obesity amongst young Americans” has already leveled off. There’s that. As for the other stuff, well, I covered what I thought of that back in July:

Free fruits and veggies for everyone! Local, organic produce for all my friends! While you’re at it, bring back gym class and train future phys ed instructors to focus on encouraging the joy of movement instead of forcing everyone to move their bodies in exactly the same way, regardless of any pain (physical and/or emotional) it causes! Subsidize exercise facilities until they’re affordable for everyone! Create more bike paths! Clean up local bodies of water so everyone can swim for free! Build cities on the scale of human bodies instead of cars, and keep the streets safe enough for everyone to walk around! Ban high fructose corn syrup! Keep fast food and soda and junk food corporations out of the schools! Raise the minimum wage and shorten working hours so people have more time to cook and be active! KNOCK YOURSELVES RIGHT THE FUCK OUT creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone to eat a variety of fresh foods and get plenty of exercise!

But don’t tell me that’s going to make everyone thin — and really, really don’t tell me that making people thinner should be the main point of such a plan.

Also, it’s worth remembering that 90% of nine-year-olds get “a couple of hours of exercise a day,” making the panic over the millions of supposedly sedentary children glued to their computers and Wiis a mite puzzling.

Paul also calls out Obama, as well he should, for featuring THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA in his health care plan. The fact is, there is no politician on the national stage who’s clued in to Health at Every Size at this point, and I imagine it’ll be some time before there is one. That’s why I’ve long said I don’t even factor fat policy into my voting decisions, because everyone’s fucking policy is still that fatties are destroying America. Having said that, Obama’s plan offers one thing that stands to benefit us, even if the focus on “prevention” (which experience tells me to read as “weight loss” — just like “wellness program,” as Paul points out) makes me queasy: Under his plan, insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. That could make a big difference — although it would depend on whether they’re still allowed to charge people with pre-existing conditions exorbitant prices.

Anyway, to sum up: McCain and Obama both suck on fat. McCain sucks more.

This thread is open for discussion of that and anything else that struck you about last night’s debate. I actually didn’t watch this time, so I’ve got some catching up to do.

30 thoughts on “The Candidates on Obesity”

  1. Here’s what I said at BFB:

    Unfortunately, despite solid evidence that shows the US has no real obesity epidemic, it’s not what the majority wants to hear, and the political world knows that they can get money and glowing press for creating plans to fix “broken fat kids and adults.” We’ll probably never have fat-friendly politicians, even if they’re fat themselves.

    Fat is the popular topic right now when people want to wag the dog away from more critical concerns facing our country and our world. Because once you get people started talking about it, they don’t want to shut up. Look at any site that allows comments—fat hysteria will always have the most. People can’t wait to spew their ill-will towards those who are big.

    While McCain and Obama have a lot to be educated on when it comes to fat, at least it’s not Mike Huckabee debating, because his attitude towards fat people can fill up the whole Fat Hate Bingo card. His health plan would probably include mandatory WLS for anyone considered overweight or obese. (For those that don’t know, Huckabee had WLS and said on the Paul Harvey radio program this spring that the majority of fat people are fat because they the only form of exercise they get is going to and from the buffet). This was in response to a woman who was denied treatment for what turned out to be a very huge benign belly tumor because the first doctor she went to told her she was fat and to just lose weight.

  2. The timing of McCain’s anti-obesity argument in the debate struck me as desperation. If he couldn’t win the debate with actual policies or facts he could at least throw fat people under the bus. Vote for me and I’ll get rid of all those horrible fat people!

  3. Kate, really the only thing you need to know about the debate is that McCain, I swear to god, used scare quotes to talk about the “health” of the mother in late-term abortions.

  4. I was less pissed about the obligatory OBESITY BOOGA BOOGA comment than I was (and still am) about McCain’s response to the Roe v. Wade question. SO ANGRY.

  5. I was less pissed about the obligatory OBESITY BOOGA BOOGA comment than I was (and still am) about McCain’s response to the Roe v. Wade question. SO ANGRY.

    I’m with ya there, maewyn. Both sides have rhetoric about the so-called “obesity epidemic.” Sure, McCain’s comments on obesity were ridiculous, but what REALLY scared the hell out of me was his talk about the health of pregnant mothers…

    “McCain: Just again, the example of the eloquence of Sen. Obama. He’s health for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.”

    That sent chills down my spine. Apparently pregnant women’s health concerns shouldn’t be taken seriously.

  6. I don’t know whether I’m madder about the “health” part or the “eloquence” part. Jesus Christ I hate that man.

  7. Hi, long-time lurker here, de-lurking to educate myself, hopefully. I am in the process of embracing the fat acceptance movement and my own body. I’m doing pretty well so far. I was explaining my progress on this front to my fiancee a few nights ago, and he was very supportive, but he asked me a question I couldn’t answer, about the so-called obesity epidemic: why has there been an increasing number of fat people in the last 20 years, assuming (?) that that description is accurate? If it’s not that people are somehow fundamentally changing, doesn’t it have to be the way foods are made, or something like that? Again, I know i am a lurker, but I just was hoping some Shapeling could give me (and him) some facts.

    Thanks, and THANKS for helping me on this journey, to all of you.

  8. @ Jessica:

    I’m pretty new to this myself, but I do know that at least part of the reason for the increase in number of people who are classified as overweight or obese is in large part due to the redefinition of the terms. “Obese” now includes anyone with a BMI above 30, and “overweight” is anyone with a BMI above 25. Those lines used to be drawn at 27.8 for men and 27.3 for women for overweight. I don’t know off hand what the cutoff used to be for obese–maybe someone else can enlighten us.

    The median weight in the U.S. actually hasn’t gone up much at all–only the definitions changed. The median height is also higher now, but you don’t see anyone talking about the epidemic of tall people.

    Check out this link about the change in BMI definitions: http://www.halls.md/bmi/nhanes3.htm

  9. “My friends, we are in the midst of a tall epidemic. Too many of our children are too tall. We must do something about this. All of this additional height is wasting thousands of yards of fabric as we try to cover these too-long limbs. Children are being injured every day as their too tall heads crash into doorways that were perfectly fine only a few decades before. Look at school photos. Kids were much shorter–and much healthier–when I was a student.”


  10. Jessica – the average person has gained only 5-10 pounds in the past 50 or so years. But because of where the cutoffs for overweight and obese fall on the normal curve of the population, an average 5-10 pound weight gain resulted in a lot of people moving from the high end of normal to the low end of overweight, and a lot of people moving from the high end of overweight to the low end of obese. So it’s not so much that people got substantially fatter as that people gained a small amount of weight which moved them from one arbitrary BMI category to another. (I don’t have a link, unfortunately, but you can find it in Paul Campos’ The Obesity Myth which I’d recommend you read anyway, it’s very good).

    Also, the proportion of obese people has levelled off in the past 5 years. And no, I don’t have a link for that either, maybe one of hte other Shapelings has it?

  11. Himawari, it’s also the line “That’s the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, ‘health.'” I find it challenging to coherently reply to that because my outrage keeps getting in the way.

    Also can I ask why the fuck McCain made any kind of reference to Palin’s husband when he was answering why she’s better than Biden? Or would the answer piss me off more?

    Back on topic: I love that Obama’s plan won’t let insurance companies make denials based on pre-existing conditions, both because I am teh fats and because my husband was recently diagnosed with MS. If we switched insurances now, we’d have to watch our coverage beginning/ending dates so he doesn’t get caught with a pre-existing condition clause. I had high hopes for not having to worry about that anymore, but I hadn’t thought that the insurance companies might then charge extra. *sigh* Never underestimate insurance companies’ power to avoid paying for your medical treatment.

  12. McCain SAID THAT?!? (The scare quotes regarding abortion and the pregnant woman’s health.)

    OK, given, I wasn’t going to vote for him any way, for SO. MANY. REASONS., but I still like having things to complain about and concrete information to throw at people.

    EW. Excuse me while I go donate to NARAL or Planned Parenthood or the Anti-Issue 8 in Colorado thing or something.

  13. Last night McCain was a desperate man grasping at straws. He was willing through anything and anyone under the bus to make some headway. He clearly is not a man of principle and has proven that ever so clearly in the last two weeks. Whether it is fatties are the problem with society, or letting his supporters make death threats, to ignoring womens health the man will utter anything to get the attention of the lunatic fringe voters that by now are his only supporters.

  14. Yeah I didn’t hear any of the abortion stuff after McCain said “pro-abortion movement” I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it.

    I roll my eyes when Obama mentions obese kids, but I figure it’s not something either of them are passionate about (like Huckabee) so once Obama’s in office he’s not going to actually be persecuting fat people so I don’t have anything to really be worried about… mostly just annoyed.

  15. I liveblogged it last night (shameless plug: http://smartangrywomen.wordpress.com). My fingers were all set to take McCain down on that obesity thing, when out of left field comes “o hai mai friendz, you no can has womenz healths.”


    And that’s not just my standard OMFG WHAT; that’s an OMFG WHAT even in the face of the GOP platform, which says in so many words that the GOP does not support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Woman (or the Child, but that’s another rant). That bit about “health” being “radical” and “leftist” just blew my shit away. Apparently, McCain missed the part where the people concerned with a “health” exception are overwhelmingly on the fence about abortion, and therefore the very people he should be pandering to if he wants their vote.


    I’m trying to compose a blog post about this, but I haven’t gotten past OMFG WHAT yet. Obviously. ;)

  16. I figure it’s not something either of them are passionate about

    McCain’s health care plan will discriminate against fat people without him having to lift a finger, though. The effect of this “oh, you can buy health insurance anywhere in the country!” feature he keeps touting is that insurance companies will flock to the states with the fewest regulations, like credit card companies do. Of course they don’t want to insure anyone they can get away with NOT insuring, so we can expect the most severe possible restrictions on what weight you must be and how healthy you must be to qualify for insurance.

  17. You know what makes Mccain’s comments even scarier? The fact that he’s not ignorant of what banning abortion means. In 1999 he said he was against overturning r vs w because it would push women into dangerous illegal abortions. What’s different? He lost his presidential campaign in 2000 in the primaries, and this time, he’ll do anything to win. He doesn’t care about anyone else anymore. That’s the scariest thing. It’s bad enough when pro-lifers honestly believe that health exceptions are just excuses that can mean anything. But Mccain is not that ignorant. He knows women will die if abortion’s banned, and he does not care anymore.

  18. The other thing that pissed me off last night was McCain’s assertion that Palin knows about autistic kids better than probably anyone. Why is that? Oh, right – she has a son with DOWN SYNDROME. Because, you know, all kids with special needs are exactly fucking the same.

    I give props to Obama for making a very important philosophical move. When they were talking about about negative ads, McCain said something about Obama’s ads targeting his health care policy. So the fuck what? Obama, to my happiness, rebutted with what I had written in my notes – if he were to attack McCain, the person, it would be an ad hominem attack (against the person, not the issue) – though he obv didn’t say that. Instead, he was attacking the policy, which I think is totally appropriate.

    I also commend Obama on his handling of the Ayers issue.

    All in all, I still wish the ideal candidate was running (not that I’ve seen one yet), but that’s not the case. I think that Obama did a spectacular job last night.

  19. I don’t understand how monitoring the weight of every American fits in with the small government “keep out of my business” platform the Republican party is supposed to stand for. Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?

  20. I don’t understand how monitoring the weight of every American fits in with the small government “keep out of my business” platform the Republican party is supposed to stand for

    Neither does telling people who to marry or forcing them to have children they don’t want. The “keep out of my business platform” has been a lie for a long time now.

  21. *joins the ranks of the infuriated* McCain angered me deeply last night with the: He’s health for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That’s the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, “health.” comment (Yes, direct quote via Crooks & Liars). The reaction on the Twitter Hack the Debate channel was riotous, and that thing has been surprisingly pro-McCain most nights.

    Also Obama, who has his faults, flat out said he recognizes a right to privacy in the Constitution, which is hugely important to me, as Griswold, not Roe, is really the fundamental case on things like abortion and allowing people to keep things like their medical history and sexual preferences private and out of government hands. Though I’m not sure how Obama reconciles rights to privacy with putting my health care records “online” which makes me uncomfortable. Anyway.

    Today’s “Story in the life of a budding FA activist”: My new employer has a “wellness” requirement for the students. “Students study the components of healthful lifestyles” and then are required to take a physical activity. Add this to the list of reasons why I would never in a million years have attended the school I now teach at (gym in college? Hell no).

    But during today’s faculty meeting, someone brought up the “obesity epidemic booga booga” as a reason why we shouldn’t alter the requirements. The department that oversees this wanted to remove the lecture course and require the students to take two physical activity classes instead. This guy raised an objection because of the situation in the country.

    I didn’t speak up. I’ve only been here a few months, I have to have surgery in 4 weeks which has put me in a precarious position at work, and my general strategy is to keep my head down for year 1 until I get an idea for how things work. But I wanted so badly to raise my hand and point out that there IS NO OBESITY EPIDEMIC and anyone who calls her/himself an academic who buys so uncritically into a fabricated moral panic should not be teaching impressionable students. RAAAAR.

    and so it goes.


  22. Jessica, I second Becky’s explanation, and also would recommend Gina Kolata’s “Rethinking Thin.”

    So… I’m going to take a slightly contrary position here (not that different from Kate’s) and say that wellness does not have to equal “get rid of the fat people or deprive them of their rights.”
    In fact, that’s what I think my job is right now, to remind the wellness folks of the real science of what’s known about weight loss, and to shift their focus away from weight over to things that might actually make a difference, like letting people schedule their time so they can fit in physical activity, or get the prevetative care that they need (like mamograms, paps and colon cancer screenings), or even take the radical step of asking their employees what they could do to help them manage their own health. (ducking — as I know that this isn’t how it appears to be going in many other places.)
    There was actually a Health at Every Size edition of a prominent Workplace Wellness magazine, which I think you can access here:
    Yes, it’s an uphill battle, but one that is worth taking on.

  23. The panic about children glued to their Wiis “instead” of exercising has me a mite confused in the first place. Granted, I have never played the thing, but I have seen commercials and it looked like a pretty physically active thing to do. And honestly, to me, that’s one of its biggest attractions–not the fact of the physical activity, but the move toward a more virtual-reality type of video game. I am actually doing what my character on the screen is doing. Super cool.

  24. There are times when I’m so glad that I live in the UK, and this is one of them. McCain’s scare quotes around “health of the mother” are pretty unnerving – having a baby is still one of most dangerous things a woman can do, health-wise, and he wants to pretend that it’s not?

    Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, we are considering accepting that women might actually be responsible enough to know whether or not they want a baby and don’t need two doctors to say they’d be driven out of their tiny fluffy minds if they went through the pregnancy in order to get an abortion:

  25. OK, so we have the secret FA handshake and now we get Ranks of the Infuriated hats? This is the best club ever. We even have the Piggy Moo soundtrack playing in the background.

    I can’t listen to McCain or OMG the Creepiness that is Palin any more, my head will explode. And then my Ranks hat will be useless.

  26. Yes, I’m glad not to be on your side of the pond either, in this instance. I didn’t see the McCain health diatribe, being as how I’m not American, but I did read some excellent, excellent blog posts on why what he said is an insult to every thinking woman, especially to those who have had, are having, or might some day have, a baby: see


    (by Cecily, whose blogroll is where I found SP in the first place)



    by Alexa. Both Cecily and Alexa have very personal reasons for being horrified by what McCain said. It’s awful.

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