So here’s a blurb on a new study, courtesy of Washington Post’s “The Checkup.” It opens:
Women, want to enjoy good health in your golden years?
Ooh! I know this one! [thinks] YES.
Lose weight. Now.
Oh. Wow, that’s… um, directive. Not one to slice the bologna too thin, eh, WaPo? Attention ALL WOMEN! What? Yes, even YOU, the one whose BMI puts you in the underweight range. Want to be healthy when you’re old, woman? Lose weight. Now. It’s What Women Do, see.
Look, I don’t want prematurely to pile on Jennifer LaRue Huget, whom I don’t know from Eve. (I will note that a quick Google search suggests that she’s written two children’s books that miiiiiiiight just tap into the old mothers-are-the-ones-who-bear-total-responsibility-for-the-kids-and-I-can’t-therefore-fathom-why-they’re-so-UPTIGHT-laff-laff-chortle thing. But perhaps if I read the books I’d be pleasantly surprised. It’s happened before.) She was writing, probably under a deadline, on a study that was uploaded to the BMJ website LAST NIGHT. Plus, who knows what changes her editor made?
In any case, one can’t expect a short, punchy WaPo blurb to contain as much nuance as this analysis of the same study, which appeared today on… ummm… Washington Post’s “The Checkup,” and was reported by a Jennifer LaRue Huget:
The study controlled for socioeconomic status and for smoking, diet and other lifestyle behaviors that could affect physical and mental health. One caveat: Most of the women studied were white, so researchers aren’t sure their findings extend broadly across the general population.
Oh. The heck you say. Well, no, that’s really okay, because we’re all pretty sure that white women count for all women, right? So the opening command to lose weight probably still holds. Plus: look, it’s a WaPo blog. If one wanted in-depth and even-handed analysis like this:
Still, the study adds new fodder to the often-heated debate about how closely body weight correlates to health. While the common wisdom is that being overweight puts people at increased risk of life-shortening diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, others say no such cause-and-effect relationship has been scientifically established and that people can be very healthy even if they’re overweight or even obese. The new research is the first, according to its authors, to examine the role of overweight and obesity in overall health among women who survive to older ages.
…one would need to look here, in the coverage by WaPo’s “The Checkup,” by Jennifer LaRue Huget.
Okay, okay, I’m having a little joke. It’s ALL the same article! Ha! But seriously. [Puts on serious face]. Shapelings, I point this out as an example of a phenomenon I see in health reporting and advertising. I call it the Vision Chart Effect. The principle runs thus: In messages about fat, the text at the top is big, bold, and brief. Read down and it gets smaller and smaller, and lengthier and lengthier. Just like an eye chart! Witness:
LOSE WEIGHT FOR HEALTH!
Look at these ladies! They’re thin!* And therefore healthier than you!**
*Not that we actually know any good way for YOU to get thin. Results not typical and so on.***
***-Incidentally, you maybe should know that this might not have fuck-all to do with overall health.
** – And by “you” I mean “white lady.” Frankly, if you’re not white we’re probably not talking about you in the first place.
Because I know that people who show a concern for “health” always have everyone’s best interests at heart, it is my studied opinion that the mainstream media provides this effect as a SERVICE. A service to FAT PEOPLE. Isn’t that nice? Because apparently some fat people experience prejudice at the doctor’s office. To the point that they avoid going and getting regular checkups for things like vision. (A fact which could not POSSIBLY have any effect on overall health as one enters one’s golden years.)