Happy International No Diet Day!

Happy International No Diet Day!

Book news: As of early this morning, we are the number two bestseller on Powell’s. HOLY CRAP.




Thanks to Meowser for first pointing out that we were on the list (at #3, last night) and The Bald Soprano for catching the move to #2!

And a huge damn THANK YOU to everyone who’s bought it! 

Listen, y’all. It looks like the #1 book there is a suspense novel Powell’s is heavily promoting, so knocking it out of that spot is probably impossible. But if anyone wants to give it a try? I kinda think it’s a great project for today, don’t you? Make Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body Powell’s #1 bestseller for International No Diet Day? It has a nice ring to it, I think. 

I mean, it’s possible I’m slightly biased when it comes to the awesomeness of this idea. But you might want to pass it on anyway.

Update: HOLY CRAP x2, WE DID IT!

Shut up, Bob Greene

A couple people have e-mailed me (thank you) about Bob Greene saying on Larry King that it’s healthier to yo-yo diet than stay fat. Specifically:

King: Is fluctuating weight like Kirstie Alley bad, Bob?
Greene: Well, there’s two sides to that story. First off, if you remain heavy, that’s when the most damage is done to your heart and the excessive health ramifications from keeping overweight. So as long as you’re watching, even if it’s yo-yo dieting, that’s healthier than the person that remains heavy.

Except for how that’s probably the opposite of true. I’m too distracted for a full rant right now, but Shinobi’s on it, and I’ll tell you what I just told her in comments. I just re-read the big 2007 UCLA metaanalysis of weight loss studies (PDF). They recommend further study on weight cycling, because the current data is (or was) inconclusive — but it doesn’t look good at all. Money quote:

“In sum, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term weight outcomes are minimal, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term health outcomes are not clearly or consistently demonstrated, and the potential harms of weight cycling, although not definitively demonstrated, are a clear source of concern. The benefits of dieting are simply too small and the potential harms of dieting are too large for it to be recommended as a safe and effective treatment for obesity.”

And here’s what comes right before that:

It is also possible that weight regain leads to health
problems of its own. An analysis of the benefits and harms
of dieting must consider the potential harms of weight
cycling. Weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of
weight, is commonly observed in dieters (Brownell &

It is also possible that weight regain leads to health problems of its own. An analysis of the benefits and harms of dieting must consider the potential harms of weight cycling. Weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of weight, is commonly observed in dieters (Brownell & Rodin, 1994; National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, 1994). There is evidence from largescale observational studies that weight cycling is linked to increased all-cause mortality (Blair, Shaten, Brownell, Collins, & Lissner, 1993; Lee & Paffenbarger, 1992) and to increased mortality from cardiovascular disease (Hamm, Shekelle, & Stamler, 1989). In addition, weight cycling is associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes (French et al., 1997), increased highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol (Olson et al., 2000), increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Kajioka, Tsuzuku, Shimokata, & Sato, 2002), and even suppressed immune function (Shade et al., 2004).

It has often been suggested that the harmful effects of weight cycling result from unintentional weight loss (i.e., from smoking or illness) rather than from intentional dieting (French & Jeffery, 1994; National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, 1994). However, at least two large-scale studies that controlled for unintentional weight loss still found that intentional weight loss is linked to mortality risk (Andres, Muller, & Sorkin, 1993; Pamuk, Williamson, Serdula, Madans, & Byers, 1993), and the balance of evidence does seem to implicate intentional weight loss in adverse health outcomes.


Shut up, Bob Greene. Shut up a lot.

Behold the Queen of Fats

OK, so the best article that ever has been and probably ever will be written about me is in the Chicago Tribune today. (Thank you, Nara Schoenberg!!!) If you live in the area, you should totally go pick up a hard copy to see the hilarious photo on the cover of the “Live” section. (ETA: Or see below. But go buy it anyway for the sake of the people who work there.) Nara called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “You know, we have some photos of you on file from the RedEye article, but they don’t really capture your attitude. Or your… sort of commanding, regal quality.” To which I replied, “SNORF.” 

Here is a list of actual questions Nara asked me after that: 

  • Do you have anything in your house that’s… throne-like?
  • What kind of pink fruity drinks do you like?
  • Would you consider wearing a tiara?

(Answers: No; fruity-tinis and champagne cocktails; I would consider it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do it.)

So we set up a shoot at Vive la Femme, because that is where a fat girl in Chicago goes when she needs to be photographed wearing a cocktail dress she doesn’t own, holding a glass of “champagne” (ginger ale), on a black couch with leopard print pillows and a faux-fur throw, in front of a bright pink wall. Stephanie even did a quick “alteration” with paper clips to make the dress fit better through the bust, then helpfully kept reminding me to keep my arm in front of the fucking paper clips for the photos. They are running one FULL-SERVICE OPERATION over there, I’ll tell you what. 

Anyway. I can’t get the photo scanned until later, but in the meantime, Fillyjonk’s whipped up a piece of art to give you the general idea.  (This is a picture of my first trial run for hair and make-up for the upcoming wedding reception. I say first trial run, because I felt like such a clown done up like this, I scrambled to find another salon to try before I left Minneapolis, and I’ll be going with the second. Keep in mind that in photos, the 90 lbs. of black eyeliner and purple eyeshadow actually look MORE SUBTLE.)


All hail the queen.

(And no, it was not remotely my idea to title myself “Queen of the Fat-o-sphere,” for the record, but I do find it hilarious.)

UPDATE THE SECOND: Al said y’all managed to “pound [his] cable modem flat” within 10 minutes after I put up the links to the PDF. So scratch that. Here’s the picture, by Antonio Perez — who was completely awesome.


Oh, and as always, for the love of Maude, don’t read the comments at the Trib.

1,000 calories a day: Officially not torture

Via Rachel at The-F-Word, the HuffPo is reporting that calorie restriction was a Bush-administration-approved torture technique, and the justification for its legality was that people do it voluntarily. We just call it “dieting” instead of “torture.”

In a footnote to a May 10, 2005, memorandum from the Office of Legal Council, the Bush attorney general’s office argued that restricting the caloric intake of terrorist suspects to 1000 calories a day was medically safe because people in the United States were dieting along those lines voluntarily.

“While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1000 kcal/day for sustain periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision,” read the footnote. “While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique.”

This is like saying that because people voluntarily engage in e-stim, it’s totally safe to zap detainees’ genitals. I’m going to set aside for a moment my extreme revulsion at the bureaucratic justification of torture — because I really cannot string together words strong enough to express how horrified I am by my own government in this matter — and focus on the whole, you know, dieting is torture thing.

This is what people who say “just put down the baby donuts, fatty” want you to undergo: something so mind-destroying that the Bush administration thought it would make you confess to terrorist acts. “Without requiring medical supervision,” my ass. The first thing I thought of when I read that was zombie z’s comment from this post:

zombie z: You want to know what makes me fucking CRAZY?!

As a thin anorexic, I was told over and over again that 500, 800, 1000, sometimes even 1200, calories a day wasn’t enough to even keep someone alive. I was told I should be eating 1800-2500 calories a day.

As a normal-sized anorexic, I was told (by a doctor) that I could “eat 800 calories a day and exercise and still lose some weight.”

Doctors are not immune from fat prejudice, as zombie z’s comment so distressingly demonstrates. The reason people don’t have medical supervision while doing Jenny Craig or WW is not because those diets are so clearly safe; it’s because they’re so clearly normalized as part of the (female) American experience. Feeling fat? Go on Weight Watchers! Everybody does it! If it doesn’t work it’s because you cheated and had some cough drops or carrots or something, not because it’s designed to fail so that you’ll have to pony up your money again next year.

We are firmly through the looking glass on this one. Diets feel torturous,* but doctors say fatties should go on them because duh, you’re fat — but if you’re thin, watch out! That’s not enough to live on, you’ll starve! The professional torture apologists say that diets are perfect because they feel like torture, but they must not be because look at all those fatties on them — they’re not being tortured, right? It’s voluntary and no one would volunteer for torture, which is why we only approve things that feel like torture but aren’t torture. If you object that there is no moral or physical difference between something that feels like torture and something that is torture — that the definition of torture is about how it feels — well, you’re just a liberal pantywaist. And you could probably stand to drop a few pounds.

*Now would be a good time to refresh your memory on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, in which subjects went mad on 1600 calories a day.

Bachelorettes, bathing suits, etc.

Hi! Remember me? A long time ago, I used to blog here.

So, last time I wrote, I was off to my first destination bachelorette party. The destination, it can now be told (OK, it was already told repeatedly on Twitter last weekend), was Vegas. The bride, one of my oldest and dearest, works for a big, giant corporation that owns several casino resorts. Said big, giant corporation is not in the habit of comping its employees, on accounta they’ve got a bazillion employees and that would get spendy, but the bride and some of her local friends were able to call in a few favors and get us some ridiculous free shit, including rooms, a cabana by the pool for Saturday afternoon, and numerous free bottles of booze — including some at two different clubs of the sort I didn’t even frequent when I was 21, which is really the only time you’d want to.

So we all had a total blast, duh. But it was one of those total blast events I spent so fucking much time stressing about beforehand, it’s kind of a wonder I did manage to enjoy it. First of all, I didn’t realize there would be quite so much free shit, and with a book tour coming up, I was worried about spending too much money on comparatively frivolous travel. But that was really the only practical, reasonable stress. All the rest of it — and it was a lot — was self-image shit.

Not just body image shit — though gearing up to wear a bathing suit in public can still throw me for a bit of a loop. (As I said in comments on the bathing suit shopping post, it’s not even really fat shame anymore, just general prudishness; I’m simply not comfortable with anyone but Al and my doctor seeing that much of my naked flesh. And really, I’m not that comfortable with my doctor seeing it.) No, I was just all-around obsessed with how I’d present myself — i.e., making the fatal mistake, not for the first time, of assuming that anyone else really gives a rat’s ass how I present myself. Especially when I’m standing next to a woman wearing 4-inch heels, a white feather boa, and rhinestones spelling out “bride” across her shoulder. 

The problem was this: I didn’t know most of the other women who would be there. And even though I knew the bride would never be friends with assholes, I just couldn’t tamp down the following fears:

  1. They’d all be girlier, cuter, better dressed, more at home in bathing suits and fancy clubs, etc., than I am. (Actually true, overall — it just didn’t ultimately matter a bit.)
  2. There was a strong likelihood of running into diet talk, given that it was a group of 10 women. (Also true, but it was minimal.)
  3. Some of them might look at me like I had 3 heads, all of which were about to be diagnosed separately with diabetes and heart disease, when I told them what I write about. (Not true!)

Now, about 85% of this stress manifested as me going, “WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK?” — I wasn’t having panic attacks or anything. But it was a good lesson in how much the stability of my self-image can depend on context. Still. After two years of blogging and writing half a book purporting to share the secrets of my awesome self-image.

Don’t get me wrong — I DO have an awesome self-image, both generally speaking and especially compared to what it used to be.  Overall, I’m plenty confident and often enough arrogant. It’s just, there’s still that “what it used to be” part lurking underneath, and certain situations can bring it shooting up to the surface. I can stand on a stage and read to an audience, write opinionated blog posts, get loud and stupid with my friends, wear skintight yoga pants in a class full of hardbodies, moderate the fuck out of comments, and talk easily to reporters, all without worrying too much about what anyone thinks. But put me in a group that’s mostly people I don’t know and ask me to socialize OR ask me to spend an entire afternoon wearing a bathing suit in public, and I am suddenly self-conscious as all hell. Ask me to do both at once, and I’m suddenly a useless pile of WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK OMG OMG OMG THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY KILL ME.

But here’s the difference between me now and me when my self-image was like 90% suck: I went anyway. I didn’t talk myself out of it because I was so afraid the potential for being judged negatively outweighed the potential for fun. When I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” the answer was, “Some of [bride’s] friends don’t like me.” Bride would continue to like me anyway, as would another one of our oldest and dearest who would also be in attendance. It seemed highly implausible that all 7 of the other women would find me repulsive, so it was unlikely that I’d get stuck with no one at all to talk to, or that a bunch of grown-ass women, including two of my oldest friends, would gang up on me like a pack of hostile 7th-graders. At the absolute worst, I’d get a polite brush-off from a couple of people I would only have to see one more time in my life. WAIT, THAT’S ALL I’VE BEEN FUCKING FREAKING OUT ABOUT?

So I went. I went, and I had a blast. What’s more, my very favorite part of the weekend was the part that involved wearing a bathing suit in public. (As it turned out, the day was cooler than expected, so I ended up wearing sweats over my suit most of the time I wasn’t in the pool or hot tub — so much for all the anxiety about finding a sufficiently adorable suit and cover-up combo.) I lovelovelove to be in the water, and I have now learned that I REALLY love to sit in a private cabana and have people come and refill my drink while I’m not in the water. (This is a bittersweet bit of new knowledge, since the likelihood of my ever having access to a free cabana again is about equal to the likelihood that I’ll ever have enough disposable income to just pay for one, i.e., nil.) And of course, I loved all of the bride’s friends I got to talk to for longer than 5 minutes, and I’m sure I would equally love the ones I didn’t. Most of my fears did not come true, and those that did turned out to be irrelevant anyway. (Oh noes! 90 seconds of throwaway diet talk!)  

All this should surprise exactly no one, least of all me. But when you’re an anxiety-prone person who’s still overcoming decades of self-hatred — even if you’ve written half a book about how not to hate yourself so damn much — it’s still so easy to get wrapped up in the fear of not being charming enough and smart enough and funny enough and bikini-ready enough to survive an unfamiliar social situation. Not so many years ago, I probably would have decided to skip the whole thing, purely because I knew I was likely to be the fattest person there by a considerable margin (which I was). I would have convinced myself that all of them — including the two I’ve been friends with for plus or minus 20 years — would be humiliated to be seen with me, disgusted by having to look at me in a bathing suit, and thus either terribly awkward (my friends) or downright cruel (all the rest). And the thing is, none of that would have been true then, either. But I never would have found out the fears were bullshit. I never would have found out that flitting between a cabana and an enormous pool all afternoon is pretty much my idea of heaven (though again, it might have been better if I never did find that out). Not to mention, I would have missed a celebration in honor of one of my oldest and dearest — all because of my own fucking insecurity.

I still get alternately angry and weepy when I think about how much I used to hold myself back, how much I chose to miss out on, because I was so worried that people would think I was too fat/ugly/dull/irritating/etc. — mostly fat and ugly — to deserve to take part in whatever fun activity was on the table. It wasn’t even that I didn’t think I deserved it, necessarily — but that I believed everyone else would be looking at me and thinking, “Who the hell does she think she is?” (I mean, wearing a bathing suit at a pool! Can you imagine THE NERVE?)

The first mistake, of course, was believing that everyone — or anyone, really — would be looking at me at all, much less long enough to form a strong opinion about my body and/or character. It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism. But the other mistake was believing that the risk of being judged was always greater than the potential fun of putting myself out there. I mean, how could I possibly enjoy swimming, or lying by the pool, or drinking fruity drinks, or dancing,  if there might be someone nearby thinking, “Damn, she needs to put those thighs away.” Oh, wait — I would still be swimming, lying by the pool, drinking fruity drinks, dancing. These are INTRINSICALLY ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES in my book. It would take a lot more than a dirty look from a stranger to make those things not fun

Of course, sometimes you get a lot more than a dirty look. (And people fatter than me get a lot more a lot more often.) But as Lesley said in a brilliant post (which happens to be reprinted in the book) a while back:

Given the choice between restricting my movements and being assured of never being catcalled again, versus going out shamelessly and risking (or demanding!) attention – I will gladly take the latter. I like being visible. Even when I become a bull’s-eye upon which the insecurities and savagery of others are exorcised. Even when I lose time processing and remembering the emotional risks I take just by being myself, time I would have otherwise spent relaxing in the sunshine. When I first began my self-acceptance process, I decided first off that I never wanted to feel afraid of what those people – those who would mercilessly catcall me from a moving car, for example – might think or say about my body again. I never wanted to avoid life out of fear. And I’m still there, still fighting to be fearless.

So I say fuck those people. I’ll be on that beach tomorrow, and this weekend, and for months to come, and if they don’t like it, good, I’m glad to displease them.

And as my lovely co-author said just today:

I would rather be seen than be invisible. I would rather exist as a vocal and visual body than as a silent and hiding one, occupied mostly with minimizing myself.

Right on. I may never be completely rid of all those old fears, but these days, I feel strong enough to fight them, instead of rolling over and letting them win. That’s the big difference between having a mostly positive self-image and a mostly crap one. And I can tell you this much with absolute confidence: The next time someone invites me to spend an afternoon in a free cabana by a ridiculously gorgeous pool (oh please, let there be a next time), I will immediately say yes. 

The End of ‘Results Not Typical’?

Tari just Twittered about this, and I see Rachel’s already covered it in-depth. I am giddy.

Updated guidelines on ad endorsements and testimonials under final review by the Federal Trade Commission—and widely expected to be adopted—would end marketers’ ability to talk up the extreme benefits of products while carrying disclaimers like “results not typical” or “individual results may vary.”

Instead, companies would be allowed to tout extreme results only if they also spelled out typical outcomes.

How unbelievably awesome would this be, if it actually happens? According to the proposed guidelines,

Consumer testimonials would have to be substantiated and ads would have to include generally expected results. Endorsers, not just advertisers, could be held liable for deceptive claims. “You’d have to say not only is it extreme, but how extreme is it,” the FTC’s Richard Cleland said.

Can you fucking imagine the ads? “Jane Doe wanted to lose 50 pounds, actually lost 10, then gained 15 back! CALL TODAY TO START YOUR NEW LIFE!” “Suzy Smith lost 80 pounds, which is so rare on this program it would be unethical of us to pretend you have any real prayer of doing the same thing, and five years later, she’d gained it all back and then some! DON’T YOU WANT TO BE LIKE SUZY?” “Jared Fogle lost 245 lbs. eating nothing but vegetable sandwiches, and has kept it off for 10 years because his full-time job is now being a paid spokesperson for Subway. You, too, can keep off massive amounts of weight if someone pays you loads of money to eat as little as it takes and spend all your time exercising! TRY OUR FOOTLONG STEAK ‘N’ CHEESE.” 

Please feel free to add your own imaginary advertisements in comments. This is the most fun I’ve had all week.

Read ‘Em

There are about a gazillion things we’ve missed in the last week, so it’s round-up time.

First, though, I have a favor to ask of anyone who can swing it. Al’s friend Peter lost his job last July. He and his partner of 20+ years, Ericka, are now in danger of losing their house — foreclosure proceedings have begun, and a sheriff’s sale has been set for May 8. Making matters more difficult, in this case, saving the house isn’t just a matter of keeping a roof over their heads. Quoting Peter:

Ericka has multiple, chronic, life-altering diseases and Peter is her primary caregiver. We have modified our home to handle her medical equipment and power wheelchair, etc. Things like the added and increased voltage electrical system, the ramp, the bathroom, the enlarged doors and added bedroom door (so the wheelchair and ambulance gurneys can get through) are just some of the things that have been adapted so that Ericka can continue to live in our home.

Peter recently got a temporary job, and they’ve received some donations already, but they’re still going to need more to keep the house. I know everyone is struggling right now, but if any Shapelings have a bit of cash to spare, please go here and use the donate button or bid on one of the items other friends are auctioning off. A bunch of small donations could make a huge difference. Also, if you’re in the Twin Cities area and know of anyone looking to hire a webmaster/information architect/business analyst (I don’t even know what two out of three of those things mean), Peter’s resume can be found here.

Now, on to the round-up.

The Meghan McCain thing
Backstory here. FJ e-mailed about it this morning and all she said was, “Just in case you needed another reason never to pull that “last acceptable prejudice” shit…” No kidding.

Nevertheless, I replied that I was reasonably pleased with McCain’s response, overall — although yeah, the “last acceptable prejudice” thing NEEDS TO FUCKING DIE, and it also seemed like there was a little too much, “But I’m not fat!” going on, even though she had the decency to acknowledge that the criticism would be bullshit even if she were. I also admitted that a small part of me quite likes what I’ve seen of Meghan McCain (which is not that much, I hasten to note) — that is, the part of me that thinks deep down she’s a Democrat who’s just a little too green to get why her youthful energy and optimism almost certainly won’t make the Republican party any less hateful in the next few generations — so I might be giving her too much benefit of the doubt. FJ is not similarly impressed. What say you, Shapelings? Is her message refreshing to see, or undermined by the way she articulates it? Or both?  

Attack of the fat babies
There are reports out today about a new program  designed to keep pregnant women from gaining too much weight. Once again, the reporting suggests that fat moms have fat babies because their fat uteruses are fucking obesogenic environments, not because fat is hereditary. As I’ve said before, I don’t think genetics are the only reason why some people are fat, and I don’t entirely discount the possibility that a woman’s fat cells themselves could potentially affect her eggs or fetus(es). I do, however, think that when we’re talking about fat moms having fat babies, and no one ever says, “Hey, you think maybe that’s because fat is hereditary?” William of Ockham starts spinning in his goddamned grave.   

Also, check out Lauredhel on how the supposed upward trend in babies’ birthweights is horseshit. 

Brain surgery to cure teh fatz
Today, BFD  got around to highlighting Withoutscene’s fabulous rant on the brain surgery for obesity story we still haven’t gotten around to discussing. Discuss.

A good old fashioned blood-boiler
(via Shapeling Judith) Please enjoy this essay, in which Mindy Laube compares fatness to crime AND admits straight up that health is beside the point: Her whole argument is that fat people should rightly hate ourselves on aesthetic grounds alone. Money quote:

When teenage girls are willing to flaunt their oversize bellies in bikinis only one conclusion can be drawn: human nature is in flux. At some point during the last couple of decades, we seem to have misplaced one of the healthiest of human traits: vanity.

Yes, folks, once again, fat is fashionable and thin people are being persecuted by the millions and millions of fat-accepting folks, who are drowning out the noble few still fighting for a thin beauty standard.

The louder crowd insists that slender women are bizarre anomalies who ought to be force-fed into obese conformity because the rotund figure of the average Australian woman is “normal” and thus ideal.

Wow. I know American public schools don’t do such a great job of teaching geography, but I am 34 years old, and until this moment did not even realize that Australia IS ON ANOTHER FUCKING PLANET.

If you’re fat, you should be standing up to burn calories anyway. (If you can’t stand up, fuck you.)
A fitness club in The Netherlands has installed these high-tech bus shelter ads with a scale in the bench that produces a digital readout of your weight up in the usual ad space, where everyone can see it. As Liss says, “Not only fat-hating/shaming, but deeply hostile to the physically disabled, who have to exchange their privacy and dignity for their basic comfort just to wait for a bus.”

Leave more in comments, y’all. Self-linking encouraged.

I am in love for the second time this week

This time with an officially real person, Emily Blunt. That is, Emily Blunt, Doughnut Smuggler

On being monitored to make sure she didn’t gain weight while playing a diet-obsessed fashionista in The Devil Wears Prada, she says:

I understand why I was asked to be like that for that role, my character was surviving on cubes of cheese at one point in the movie. But you need some kind of comfort when you’re on a film set all day, and mine’s usually food. I was being watched like a hawk, but by the end I’d be sneaking in doughnuts just to annoy the producers.

And on Photoshopping:

I did this photo shoot with a big name fashion photographer and he said ‘Just so you know, if you don’t like anything about yourself I can fix it afterwards – like that, for example’ – pointing to my face. I was like, ‘My chin? ‘ ‘Yes, that cleft on your chin, ‘ he said, to which I replied, ‘I wouldn’t mind keeping it, as it’s part of my face, you know’.

I love the phrasing of that: “If you don’t like anything about yourself, I can fix it afterwards.” Really? Can Photoshop help me quit smoking or pay off my credit card debt? If so, maybe I’ve been too hard on it. And of course, the assumption that a woman so conventionally gorgeous she’s being  photographed for a fashion magazine must have a body part she doesn’t like… sigh.

In other news, I’m going out of town for the week, so posting (from me, anyway) might be even lighter than usual. Or I might be bored in a hotel while Al’s at a conference and end up writing up a storm. Don’t know yet, but consider yourselves warned. And if there’s no new content, feel free to use this as an open thread for linking to interesting articles or sharing what’s up your ass this week.

WTF of the day: Fling candy bars

Andy Wright at Mother Jones nails everything wrong with Mars’s new candy bars for the lady market so perfectly, I can’t even add anything. I can only quote:

Predictably, one of the hot selling points for the Fling bar is that “at under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.” In other words, the candy perfectly straddles the contradictions of the angel/whore dilemma in a way its intended female consumers never will…. The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read “Try It In Public,” equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. 

Seriously, read the whole thing. Then come back here and scream.

Exceptions that aren’t

We frequently get commenters who stop in to tell us that they lost weight and kept it off for more than five years, which in their opinion utterly disproves the claim that 95 percent of diets do not result in permanent weight loss. This is probably because when they use figures like “95 percent,” they are pulling them directly from their asses (“maybe SOME people are fat because of genetics, medication, illness, etc. but 95 percent of them just eat too much”; “95 percent of your weight is determined by what you eat, not your genes”; “95 percent of straight guys would never be attracted to a fat woman”; see also “vast majority”) so they assume we must be bullshitting too. In fact, a) that figure is backed up by science and b) it’s 95 percent, not 100 percent, so a couple of exceptions are hardly going to make us tear our hair and sign up for Weight Watchers. But bless them, it doesn’t stop them from trying.

Neither does the cognitive dissonance. Just today, for instance, Kate and SM and I were laughing ourselves sick over an email from a troll who says she DOES believe in beauty and health at every size, just not for fat fat fatties. See, she knows that the VAST MAJORITY (95 percent!) of fat people just eat too much, and she knows it because she ate the exact same stuff as her thinner sister growing up but was still not as thin, but now she’s thin even though she doesn’t diet. Yeah, we couldn’t figure it out either.

But here’s the part of that email that I want to talk about: Part of her “proof” that we are all gluttons is that she once gained 30 pounds during a bout of depression, but lost it again soon afterwards. We get countless indignant emails like this (though I might add that they represent much less than 5 percent of our readership): “I gained weight when I was in a car accident and couldn’t exercise, but then I lost it again as soon as I recovered, so you all don’t exercise enough.” “I gained weight when I lived alone and ate out all the time, but then I lost it again when I made a Lifestyle Change, so you all eat too much fast food.” “I gained weight when I was binge eating, but lost it when I stopped eating so much, so you all eat in binge quantities.”

One thing that claims of this nature have in common is, of course, a particularly navel-gazing kind of hasty generalization — “because something is true for me, it must be true for everyone.” Of all the common informal fallacies, this one might make me see the reddest, because it’s not only logically unsound but fundamentally arrogant and egotistical. But another thing they have in common, and this is what really drives me batshit bonkers, is that they actually prove our point. “So, you say you have been roughly the same weight for most of your adult life, and when extenuating circumstances made you deviate significantly from that weight, it was like you naturally settled back to your usual size? I’ll be blowed… it’s almost as if you couldn’t effect permanent changes in your body weight! Someone should write a blog about this!”

Shapeling Randomquorum recently wrote about a publicity stunt by an Australian personal trainer and wannabe actor, who is trying to gain 40 kg (about 88 pounds) so he can “better understand obese gym clients.” The article notes that “his body had tried to reject the fat at first” — you don’t say! — but with assiduous consumption of “bacon and chocolate milk,” he is halfway to his goal. He plans to get to 120 kg (264 pounds), keep the weight for three months, then lose it by training at his gym. Here’s where the article names and links to the gym, of course. (But it’s all about understanding fatties! Really!)

As Randomquorum points out, this aspiring Spurlock is going to come out of his experiment thinking that all fat people must eat the same way he did, and all could lose weight if they stopped eating and started exercising. “If it required constant consumption of heavy foods for me to get to 264 pounds,” he’ll reason, “then everyone who weighs 264 pounds must eat as much as I could possibly stand, and anyone who weighs 352 must eat EXACTLY TWICE AS MUCH.” After all, it’s calories in, calories out! If only they’d stop eating twice as much as he could stand and sitting on their asses 24 hours a day like he did, they’d be just as thin as he is now. He knows, he’ll say, because he REALLY UNDERSTANDS what it takes to gain the weight (eat everything you see) and to lose it (stop eating everything you see)! Then, he hopes, he’ll get a reality show.

Of course, it’s possible that when this guy’s weight stalls out and then chugs back down, he’ll put two and two together — “I’m eating this much but can’t gain the weight permanently, my clients say they’re not eating this much but can’t lose the weight permanently… is it possible these things are connected?” Certainly it’s clear from the comments on volcanista’s guest post that many of our naturally thin readers came to FA because they knew perfectly well they weren’t doing anything to maintain their weight, and thought it was fucked up that they were still seen as virtuous, healthy, and disciplined. I don’t think three months is nearly enough time for that revelation, though, especially given the comments we get from people who have miraculously, exceptionally, virtuously managed to remain at their naturally low setpoint weight for years.

The most ridiculous trick of the asinine “calories in, calories out” oversimplification is the idea that human experience is additive. Someone who weighs 180 pounds MUST eat 60 pounds’ worth of calories more than someone with a similar activity level who weighs 120 pounds, and someone who weighs 240 pounds must eat 60 pounds’ worth again! This is a delusion so hard-fought that, like Aristotelian notions about the crocodile’s tongue, it is simply perpetuated forward against all evidence. To assert, as the scientific evidence seems to, that in most cases you just can’t turn a 120 pound adult into a 240 pound adult and even if you can she won’t stay there, and vice versa — that flies in the face of the idea that one body type is normal, acceptable, and virtuous, and others are aberrations.

Just as a disabled person isn’t a broken able-bodied person, and a black person isn’t a darkened white person, and a woman isn’t a wangless man, a fat person isn’t just a thin person who ate too much. To think so, to cling so assiduously to thinking so in contradiction to the evidence, is to assert that there is one default body subject to any number of deliberate or accidental mutations. It is to assert that the most privileged body is also the “correct” body, the one to which everyone else should aspire. Oh sure, if you deviate through no fault of your own you are to be pitied (how many times have we heard the oh-so-charitable “but black people don’t CHOOSE to be black, fat people choose to be fat!” as though that weren’t as racist as it is fatphobic?), but if you deviate in a way that’s supposedly controlled, woe upon you. But we don’t have variations on a thin white able male body — we have human bodies, in all their many forms and functions.

And one way in which human bodies seem to behave is that they like to be a certain size. Not all human bodies, of course — because of the multiplicity of ways to be human, some people will be able to lose or gain weight permanently, some will keep gaining weight indefinitely, some will fluctuate wildly for no obvious reason, some will get stuck beyond setpoint because of medication or illness or some other mitigating factor. And not all the time, either — it seems pretty clear, for instance, that dieting will inch your setpoint upwards. But if you’re one of those people, at one of those times, it doesn’t make you better or worse, closer to or farther from the way a body should operate — it just makes you another variation on human metabolisms.

Gaining temporary weight, putting on a fat suit, strapping fake fat blobs to your stomach — in other words, emulating a “defective” thin person — doesn’t mean that you understand what it’s like to be fat. But pushing yourself outside the range where your body wants to be, seeing the inhuman effort it takes to get there, seeing your best efforts to stay there fail as you inch back towards what you weighed before… that can certainly help you see what it’s like to diet, and show you that your body and a fat body aren’t all that different after all. Spurlockabee has a great opportunity to actually become more sympathetic to the painful, futile experience of pushing your body towards what you think it should be. I don’t think he’ll take it, though.