Quote of the Day

I think science journalism is valuable and important, and in order to earn the trust of both scientists and the public, it needs to make honest, accurate reporting its chief value. Lately, there have been too many instances of a violation of that trust — and bending a story to more comfortably fit a common and erroneous stereotype is a perfect example of bad reporting.

PZ Myers

Emphasis mine. Myers is referring here to the odious “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped” article that recently appeared in The Telegraph. (If you didn’t see that one on the feminist blogs, the short version is, The Telegraph managed to pull that notion out of a press release about a study that said nothing of the sort.) But Maude knows we’ve seen more than a few examples of it around here

If you’re not already pissed off enough thinking about this on a Monday morning, check out the follow-up e-mail Myers got from a science journalist.

I would need a lot more than a Bacardi Breezer to be able to stomach this

Via Jezebel and The F-Word, a nauseating ad campaign from Bacardi (warning: link plays music and also destroys your soul) suggesting we all make ourselves feel prettier…by standing next to an “ugly girlfriend.” That concept right there tells you everything you need to know about what sexist assumptions underwrite these revolting ads: self-esteem is a zero-sum game; the key to feeling good is feeling pretty; you are always in competition with other women for male attention; standard beauty is the only way to be “hot;” women are commodities that you can “get” and trade; and so on. You know the drill; we’ve all been living it all our lives.

What the concept alone doesn’t tell you is what makes these particular women “ugly,” which is, as you can guess, that they each deviate from the beauty ideal in one or two ways. Remember, the following women are supposed to be self-evidently ugly.

Sally's so fat, she's...fat!
Sally's so fat, she's...fat!

The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!
The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!
My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.
My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.
Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she looks like a horse, see?
Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she limps, for god's sake.
So hideous, she doesn't even get a name.
WOC don't need names or background stories like those white women, right?

This is how the patriarchy and the beauty ideal collude: we are supposed to see these women and be so stunned that they aren’t thin, white, blonde, able-bodied, and perfectly symmetrical that we can only call them ugly. We’re supposed to look at these pictures and say “At least I’m prettier than her.” We’re supposed to view our female friends as accessories in our true life goal, which is to look hot for men. There are hot women, and there are ugly women, and if you’re not the hottest woman in the room, you’re automatically the ugliest.

The appalling part of these ads is not the women; it’s the blatant misogyny. Once you take off your Patriarchy Blinders (patent pending), the charge of “ugly” doesn’t even begin to make sense. If you saw these pictures without any text surrounding them, what would you think of these women? Even with the pernicious text framing them as objects of derision, this ad doesn’t work on me: these women are straight-up pretty. Pretty, stylish, and flirty even. I guess they have some of that self-esteem that’s been going around lately.

Update: Sean-Patrick Hillman of bacardi.com comments below:

June 21, 2009

Thank you for taking the time to post your story regarding Bacardi Breezer.

The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

The Obamas: Just like us!

Jezebel points us to a maddeningly obtuse series of recent articles about the Obamas’ eating habits. (There’s even an [unofficial] Obama food blog, for the truly obsessive.) Apparently the Obamas are baffling the pundit class by sometimes eating vegetables, and sometimes eating burgers. It’s true! Apparently this magical family is able to eat French freedom French fries in moderation! Can you believe it?

First up is professional fake feminist Maureen Dowd,* who claims Obama is “sending mixed signals on food” by eating different things at different times. Dowd seems to think that the true Obama is some kind of dieting, Whole Foods-loving nancy boy:

It was easy to imagine a scenario where the president and his body man, Reggie Love, would have their own early-morning TV show called “Downward Facing Dawn,” coaxing a reluctant nation into a regimen of yoga and yogurt.

But then he goes to Five Guys and eats a delicious burger! I think I can speak for all Americans when I say: WHAT THE FUCK OH DEAR GOD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT I’M ALLOWED TO EAT

Dowd concludes that this is all some sort of PR move to correct from Obama’s apparently still tragic arugula moment.

Also baffled is the wonderfully named Erika Lovley of Politico. Apparently, the Obamas’ meal plans are a direly needed piece of our national health care plan.

Nutrition experts, too, say Americans need a much better glimpse of what’s being dished up behind the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “We have no idea what their regular breakfasts, lunches and dinners are like,” said American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and D.C. nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge. “Burgers, that’s all I ever hear about. They go to burger joints because it shows they’re just like everybody else, but everybody else is overweight.”

Dude! It’s like, when I go to Chili’s, everyone is totally fat, but then the Obamas are there too! What does it all mean?

Well, apparently at least one person in the White House is on board with not obsessing about the specious good food/bad food dichotomy: the White House Chef, Sam Kass, who is quoted as saying, “We try not to do diets, as opposed to just change our lifestyle […] A diet means you’re inherently going to fall off of it.” Hey, where have we heard that before? Of course, for many people “lifestyle change” is a code word for “diet,” but in the context of complete media obsession over the fact that the Obamas, you know, eat, Kass’ statement stands out as a beacon of sanity.

And then, god help us all, Lovley quotes everyone’s favorite “obesity expert,” our old friend MeMe Roth, who notes that President Obama already smokes so he’d better put down that damn burger or everyone in America is going to die of a heart attack. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing just a wee bit.) Now, we’ve said this before, but I’m gonna say it again for good measure:

Dear Journalists of America,

MeMe Roth is not an expert on anything. She is a deeply troubled woman who wants everyone in America to hate themselves as much as she does. Even the New York Times is running articles about what a nutjob she is. Please, for your own integrity, stop quoting her. On anything.


Sweet Machine

Now, back to the Obamas and their completely incomprehensible eating: it seems to me that they might just be following the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan. They eat what they want, which is sometimes arugula and sometimes a big old burger. They exercise and they go to the doctor when necessary, and they go on living their fabulous lives. Maybe the very reason that Obama can sometimes just pick at his fries instead of shoving them into the presidential gullet is that he knows he can have fries another day if he likes. The man is the president of the United States, after all. Do we really want him to obsess over whether he should order his salad dressing on the side?

I know that this isn’t the first time that a President’s gustatory preferences have been drummed up into a national incident, but this idea that people will eat themselves fat because the Obamas ate fish and chips—while in London!—is only possible in a culture where we are so deeply alienated from our own bodies that we cannot be trusted to use food. Are you insulted? I sure as hell am. I voted for Obama because I wanted a grownup in charge of the country for once.

I was hoping this wouldn’t be necessary, but I think this is clearly the best way out of a bad situation. President Obama, if you’re reading this,** maybe this will help:

It'll look nice on the wall of the Oval Office
It'll look nice on the wall of the Oval Office

*Seriously, why does ANYBODY mistake MoDo for a feminist, ever? Is it because she is a woman with a job?

**I assume you’re a lurker.

It’s not easy being MeMe

What is there to say about MeMe Roth that isn’t obvious to the point of boredom? A new Guardian profile calls her “the woman who hates food,” and I think that’s about right, if you add “fat people, women, and herself” to the end of the phrase. (Check out that article for the “I don’t have an eating disorder even though I obsessively exercise and don’t eat” anecdote at the end, but be warned that there’s some obesity panic in the article itself.) But just when you thought Roth couldn’t get any more a) offensive, and b) wrong, she goes and says this:

“The defence has been made in the case of sex criminals that there is pleasure on the part of the victim. The same is true with what we’re doing with food. We may abuse our bodies with food, but it’s incredibly pleasurable. From a food marketer’s point of view, when your quote unquote victim is so willing and enjoying of the process, who’s fighting back?”

Clearly, MeMe Roth is a one woman army of failure. Everything is wrong with this statement, on both a factual and rhetorical level. Let’s make a list.

  • Classic straw man: “The defence has been made.” Oh yeah? By whom? Nice passive voice.
  • More passive voice to defend rape as not-rape: “there is pleasure on the part of the victim.” Roth is saying that people like being raped. Only she’s too chickenshit, or possibly too stupid, to say it that way. And of course, the rapist is disappeared from this sentence.
  • Also note that she is claiming that we should use, as the logic behind deciding the single most crucial thing we do every day of our lives—i.e., eating food—the kind of logic that would let rapists stay out of jail.
  • Ill-defined terms: “We may abuse our bodies with food, but it’s incredibly pleasurable.” If it’s incredibly pleasurable, MeMeMeMe, that means it’s not abuse.
  • Victim blaming: “quote unquote victim.”
  • Again with the victim blaming and the complete fucking misunderstanding of what sexual assault is. Hint to MeMe: if someone “is so willing and enjoying of the process,” that person is not being raped. That person is having sex.

So in using rape as her metaphor for what happens when you eat an Oreo, MeMe Roth demonstrates yet again that she literally has no idea what she’s talking about. If we stick with her horribly ineffective metaphor, what she is suggesting is that when you are having an “incredibly pleasurable” time having consensual sex with someone, MeMe should break in and yell “Rape” to save you from your quote unquote victimhood.  MeMe Roth wants us all to live the plot of Atonement.

Note to journalists or anyone else who would ever consider consulting Roth as an “expert”: this woman believes people like being raped, just like you like to eat a cookie. She is the wrongest person who ever wronged. Please, do us all a favor and just leave the woman to her self-loathing.

Want to talk to another reporter?

It’s time for me to ask for your help with the media once again.

I’m talking to a reporter who’s doing a story about what “messages” celebrities send with their weight-loss/weight-gain narratives. In her own words, she wants to know: “What was your reaction to Kirstie Alley‘s and Oprah’s latest revelations? Did their descriptions of the shame and humiliation they felt about it make you feel normalized? Hopeless? Angry? Other?”

If you’d be willing to talk to her, here’s the drill: E-mail me with “REPORTER” in the subject line by 5 p.m. EST tomorrow, May 20. Please include your e-mail address (so I can cut and paste it for her if necessary) and a short answer to the Kirstie/Oprah question. If she wants to follow up with you, she’ll get in touch and tell you what publication she’s writing for and more about the story idea. 

Once again, thanks a million for helping me with this stuff. And as always, I wouldn’t ask y’all to get involved if I didn’t believe this reporter was operating in good faith — but of course, I can’t make any guarantees about how the article will turn out.

Genetic link found among shortness, fatness, and early puberty

I just wrote for Broadsheet about a new study that found specific genes associated with determining when puberty begins for girls (and in one case, boys), which throws at least a small monkey wrench into the theory that the Evils of Modern Society (hormones in our food, pesticides, childhood obesity) are messing up little girls, so soon we’re gonna have hordes of menstruating toddlers on our hands. That post is pretty much me ranting about how our culture’s attitude toward female sexuality is a MUCH bigger problem than a relatively modest decline in the age of menarche over the last 30 years. But over here, I want to discuss the part I didn’t have space for.

The Nature Genetics study also provides a clue for why girls who are shorter and fatter tend to get their periods months earlier than classmates.

The genes sit right next to DNA controlling height and weight.

I’m sorry, did they just acknowledge the existence of “DNA controlling height and weight“? Somebody pinch me. Moving right along…

Researcher Dr Anna Murray said: “This study provides the first evidence that common genetic variants influence the time at which women reach sexual maturation.

“Our findings also indicate a genetic basis for the associations between early menstruation and both height and BMI.”

*fans self*

Now, of course they’ve also got the expected caveat in there, way before the quote from Dr. Murray.

However, [the researchers] also accept that the onset of puberty is influenced by factors such as nutrition and exercise, and the effect of a single gene is likely to be relatively small.

In the Broadsheet piece, I also talk about a recent post by Tara Parker-Pope over at Well, in which she points out that there was a much more dramatic drop in the average age of menarche between the mid-19th and 20th centuries, which is widely attributed to improved nutrition and medical care. So yeah, genes are not the only factor at play here. But of course, somewhere around the ’70s, “Improved nutrition, yay!” gave way to “We’re all eating too goddamned much and too many of the wrong foods,” and then that led to panic about fat little girls sprouting pubic hair before they’re out of diapers. And everybody sorta forgot about genes, since their existence might mean that living A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE does not give one absolute control over one’s body. Perish the thought!

Now, after all these years of hearing that early menarche is associated with both shortness and fatness — ergo, we must put chubby little girls on diets! And, you know, will them to get taller! — someone comes along and shows a genetic link among all three characteristics. You don’t say.

From the anecdata files, as I’ve mentioned before, I was a skinny kid who hit puberty early (noticeable boobs by age 9, first period at age 10), and only then began to put on weight. I didn’t have “excess” body fat prior to menarche, but I sure as hell had fat genes and short genes. (At the time, I was pretty tall for my age, but then everyone else kept growing.) So for the very little that my personal experience is worth, this makes a lot more sense to me than the thought that shortness and fatness cause early puberty.

Also, the aforementioned Well post is primarily about a recent Danish study that showed the average age of beginning breast development dropped by a full year over the course of fifteen years — though the average age of menarche didn’t drop nearly as quickly. My first thought, naturally, was, “Fuck, it’s all gonna be about how Europe is catching up to the U.S. in terms of fatness.” But wait, what’s this?

Alterations in reproductive hormones and BMI did not explain these marked changes, which suggests that other factors yet to be identified may be involved.

They controlled for BMI and got the same result! Fatness did not cause early breast development! Yippee!

I’m not optimistic that we’ll stop hearing about how THE OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA is pushing younger and younger girls headlong into adulthood any time soon. But at least we’ve got some evidence that other factors are at play.  And since in the U.S., children (not to mention adults) are apparently no longer getting fatter, I will be really curious to see what happens in the next few years. If that plateau holds, and the average age of menarche keeps declining at the same rate (which is not nearly as fast as the hand-wringers would have us believe, mind you), they’ll have to find another culprit. I mean, they’ve already got hormones and pesticides lined up for that — and for all I know, there might even be a noteworthy connection there — but CHILDHOOD! OBESITY! has long been the favorite scapegoat. It would be delightful to see the attention shift to something else. (Of course, that would involve anyone outside the fatosphere actually noticing that childhood obesity is no longer on the rise.)

Anyway, read the Broadsheet post for the rest of what I think about the panic over precocious puberty. Which is not much, generally speaking. Then tell us what you think about all this.

Read ‘Em

-Lauredhel: Fat acceptance and Oppression Olympics fail on The Gruen Transfer 

An excellent elaboration of Rule 11, among other things.

The critique of the panellists completely fails to connect this one simple fact: That arguing “you wouldn’t tell racist or homophobic jokes, so why tell fat jokes?” misses the point that people do tell racist and homophobic jokes. Bram Williams alludes to this near the end of the segment, but the dots are not connected. These jokes are everywhere. The jokes in the this advertisement all have resonance because we’ve all heard them all before.

So how is the ad supposed to work? “We’ve conquered racism, now let’s work on fatphobia?” “We’ve conquered homophobia, now let’s work on fatphobia”? “Fatphobia is the last acceptable prejudice”? We haven’t, and it’s not. And it’s downright offensive for a bunch of white sexist blokes working on their personal growth to try to create traction by stomping all over other oppressed groups.

-NYT: Striking a pose for girth

-So much wrong with that headline, but it’s a pretty good article on Yoga for Fatties. (My only real gripe is the line about the use of props in a plus-size class, which implies that said props are unique to those classes — fatties can’t hack it! — as opposed to being a staple of beginning Iyengar yoga that about a zillion different schools have adopted.)

Anyway. I’ve heard this “we shouldn’t be shunting fat folks into separate classes” argument before, and while I do think it’s true that ALL yoga teachers should be trained in modifications for fat bodies, the reality is that even if they are, they won’t necessarily have the time to devote to helping fat students in a big class. And a lot of them aren’t trained, and have never thought about how fat might interfere with the typical expression of some poses. And a lot of them are teaching at gyms where body shame is the norm. And probably most importantly, plus-size yoga classes provide a safer space for fat people who want to try yoga but are intimidated by the thought of walking into a room full of thin people in spandex. So I’m a big fan of the concept, but I would absolutely like to see more awareness of fat people’s needs among general yoga teachers. (Thanks to a Damsel writer for the tip.)

-If you missed it, Obama thinks workplace “wellness” programs are a swell idea and has a team studying the “best” ones and “explor[ing] the feasibility of developing such a plan for federal employees and their workplaces.” FANFUCKINGTASTIC. That totally won’t fan the flames of employment discrimination against fat people or bring yet more fat-shaming into yet more offices. It’ll just make us all HEALTHEEEEEE!

As Zuzu, the first person who sent this to me, said in an e-mail:

If we had single-payer, these things wouldn’t be tied to keeping your job, and if doctors didn’t have to deal with bill collecting instead of providing care in the first place, maybe there would be enough resources for prevention of the kinds of diseases that doctors are always associating with being fat and overlooking in thinner people. Which would mean lower costs, since things would be caught early, what with people not having to do things like walk out of the ER with head injuries or refuse necessary treatment because it’s too expensive.  Or wait until a condition becomes life-threatening and expensive to treat before seeking help.  

I can’t really top that.

-This has been up on the sidebar via Twitter for a couple of days, but Marjorie Ingall wrote a terrific essay on dealing with kids’ curiosity about fat people — how do you teach them not to scream, “Hey, look at the fat lady!” without reinforcing the message that fat is bad? We discussed this topic a bit on the thread about Joy Nash’s “Staircase Wit” video, but I’m still not sure I know what the answer is.

All right, that’s all I’ve got right now. Reminder to Chicago Shapelings: I’ll be selling/signing books and hanging out at Vive la Femme, 2048 N. Damen, tomorrow evening (5/15) from 6-8 p.m. There will be awesome fat people, awesome plus-size clothes for sale, and refreshments! And if you’re interested in hanging out afterwards, let us know over at the Ning site.

In Which I Continue to Learn the Hard Way What NOT to Say to Reporters

So, a week or so ago, I did an interview with Joel Mathis from the Philadelphia Weekly. (I was warned that it would be about fat women and sex—for a sex-themed issue—and I warned him back that I’m probably too prudish deep down to give him any juicy quotes. We proceeded from there.)

So. He was very nice, said his wife’s a big fan of the site (hi, if you’re reading!) and quoted me accurately in the finished version*. However. I keep learning the hard way, again and again, that there is a big difference between being quoted accurately and actually getting your point across. 

Here’s what Mathis quotes me as saying, in response to (I believe)  “Do you think of yourself as beautiful?”

“I do feel beautiful on my own terms,” says Harding, a blue-eyed blonde who weighs in around 200 pounds. “I’m married, my husband thinks I’m beautiful and plenty of guys have thought I was beautiful.”


I’m sure I said all those words. I’m also sure I followed them up with something like, “But really, that’s not the point. It’s nice to feel validated by other people, but that’s not what matters. Plenty of people don’t think I’m beautiful, and the point is, their terms don’t have to be mine.” (He does throw that bit in later.) I also noted that said blonde hair and blue eyes (and associated fair skin) and 200-lb. body and hourglass shape actually bring me a lot closer to the beauty standard than many women are, which makes me less of a target for hatred from dudes who think a woman’s worth is directly proportionate to her perceived fuckability. (Granted, I’m sure that whatever I actually said, I didn’t articulate it anywhere near that clearly. But I do know I did not leave “My husband thinks I’m beautiful and plenty of other guys do, too”—with the implied “So, nyah!”—just hanging out there like that.) 

I’m totally not criticizing Mathis for this, I hasten to add. I think he did his job in good faith—and the article’s quite positive. But the more I talk to reporters, the more I realize how important it is to think about the soundbites I’m spewing, even as I couch them in more nuanced babbling. I cracked up when I saw the Q&A we did with Damsel, because every one of those one-line answers was pulled from a ramble that lasted a couple minutes. Nothing’s out of context or troubling to me, and it totally makes sense given the space constraints—but good Maude, there was some hardcore abbreviation there.

Contrast that with the Salon interview I did via e-mail, for a better sense of how I tend to answer stuff. (And then factor in that THAT was edited down substantially—including the removal of one whole Q/A volley — because I can’t ever shut the fuck up. “5 Questions with Kate Harding” became “4 Questions and This Is Still Like 1400 Words Long Because I’m Doing You a Favor, KATE.”) Several of the reporters I’ve talked to—including Mathis—have ended the conversation with something along the lines of, “Wow, this went longer than I expected!” Yeah. Hi.

The thing is, I think one of the reasons people seem to like this blog is that I do go on forever and get into ridiculous levels of detail and clarification when I tackle a given subject. (Certainly, as with my beauty, there are those who don’t dig it. And certainly, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom about blogging, which holds that shorter posts are always preferable to longer ones. But I keep rambling and y’all keep coming back, so… Suck it, conventional wisdom.) I feel so hamstrung when someone asks me to make an important point about fat acceptance in one or two sentences, because you can’t. Not if you’re a thoughtful person.

I mean, there’s a big fucking grey area between “gives good soundbite” and “talks as much as I do.” But still, at least half this blog’s raison d’etre is that the media continuously reduces incredibly complex issues to incredibly simplistic conclusions. The quick, easy, empty quote is king. Eat less, move more! Put the fork down! Get off the couch! And oh yeah, love your body! If the media actually dealt in nuance, I’d be free to blog a lot more about my dogs and write novels with pink high heels on the cover. THAT WOULD BE A REFRESHING CHANGE, LET ME TELL YOU.

So now, because I’ve gotten some attention and half a book deal for responding to vastly oversimplified articles in a thoughtful and nuanced (albeit rambly) way, I’ve been rewarded with the opportunity to vastly oversimplify my own thoughts for a mainstream audience. Um, yay? I mean,  it’s not even that I have a problem with selling out. I’d seriously consider appearing on the cover of Maxim in a whipped-cream bikini if I thought it would move books. I’m trying to make a living as a writer here, and that’s hard enough to do even without being the kind of person who gets all hung up on “standards” and “principles.”** It’s just, I don’t know how to boil this shit down to media-friendly quotes without coming off as a total jackass. And yet, I don’t want to turn down any chance to get publicity for both the book and the whole concept of fat acceptance. 

So. Got any advice, Shapelings? Those of you who are better than I at nailing down talking points, what are your suggestions for one-liners about various aspects of fat acceptance? Those of you with media experience, what are your suggestions for avoiding the pitfall of barfing up an irresistible soundbite (like, “Plenty of guys think I’m beautiful!”) in the middle of a more complicated thought? Any help would be appreciated.

ETA: I didn’t get to this earlier because—heh—I had to run off to do another interview, but can we also talk about that illustration? I’m really not sure what to make of it. On the upside: Hot, fat woman of color, with a head and a face. On the downside: Hypersexualized, mostly naked woman of color, who’s not so much “fat” as “like 75% ass.” (Please see Julia’s essay in the book for more on that important distinction. OK, fine, you can read it here, too, but buy the book anyway.) Does it reinforce the myth that it’s more acceptable for African-American women to be fat? Is the mostly naked factor mitigated by the fact that it’s the “sex” issue, so that’s probably to be expected? What do you all think?

Edited again: MezzoSherri just made this excellent comment. (I wasn’t sure if Constance was white, but it would have been on-point even if the article only mostly quoted white women.)

I do not currently have the brainpower to try and unpack the layered meanings, assumptions, and cultural messages behind the fact that an article which quotes three fair-skinned fatties (me, Kate and Constance) and references a fourth (Marianne) is represented with an illustration of a woman of color in lingerie crouching in submission/performance for (I’m assuming) the male gaze.

*The finished version also includes an interview with Shapeling MezzoSherri, whom I was lucky enough to meet last Saturday. Yippee! And it also calls me “the godmother of the movement,” which is off on a lot of levels, starting with the fact that it’s a 40-year-old movement I’ve only been involved in for 2 years. But like “Queen of the Fat-o-sphere,” it does amuse me—as long as I think of it in Mafia terms, not quasi-maternal ones.

**This is a joke. Mostly.

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.