Another load from the Duh Truck

I just got this press release yesterday (article abstract here):

Piscataway, N.J. – June 2, 2008 – A major review in Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice reveals that research indicates people who are obese may be more likely to become depressed, and people who are depressed may be more likely to become obese.To understand the potential links between obesity and depression, researchers led by Sarah M. Markowitz, M.S., examined the correlational data that suggest a connection between the conditions and found evidence for causal pathways from obesity to depression and depression to obesity.

People who are obese may be more likely to become depressed because they experience themselves as in poor health and are dissatisfied with their appearance. This occurrence was particularly prevalent among women and those of high socio-economic status.

People who are depressed may be more likely to become obese because of physiological changes in their hormone and immune systems that occur in depression. Also, they have more difficulty taking good care of themselves because of symptoms and consequences of depression, such as difficulty adhering to fitness regiments, overeating, and having negative thoughts.

Treatments such as exercise and stress reduction can help to manage both obesity and depression at the same time. Potentially, dieting, which can worsen mood, and antidepressants, which can cause weight gain, should be minimized.

“The treatment of depression and obesity should be integrated,” the authors conclude. “This way, healthcare providers are working together to treat both conditions, rather than each in isolation.”

This is not the first time that a correlation between fat and depression has been posited, but it’s remarkable because the researchers actually seem to have noticed that the causality could run both ways. Instead of treating this as yet another danger of fat, they’ve (rather miraculously) said “wait a minute, maybe fat stigma is depressing. Maybe the stress of being fat in a hostile culture can either mimic or trigger clinical depression.” And how much do I love “experience themselves as in poor health”? They don’t actually say here that fat people ARE in poor health; instead, they acknowledge that fat people are constantly being told they’re in poor health, which as we know is a bigger health risk than being fat.

Once again I am convinced that FA is so much healthier for the general population than diet culture, no matter what our detractors might say. So fat leads to depression and depression leads to fat, huh? Well, what’s more likely to throw a wrench in that cycle — the people telling you that you will be ugly, unlovable, fatigued, ill, and not worth caring for unless you become smaller? Or the people telling you that you are worth caring for, worth nourishing, that you can participate in mood-elevating exercise for the joy of it instead of for punishment, that it’s possible for you to have a sense of health and well-being in your body, that your body is not a death sentence (any more than anyone else’s)? Our way might not wind up with fewer fat people, but we’re sure as hell going to have fewer depressed people. And isn’t that more important, really?

Well, that’s the problem — most people, including the researchers, don’t seem to think so. To be fair, the study is also remarkable because it calls for minimizing diets, “which can worsen mood” (ya think?). But what’s with the call to reduce antidepressant use? This is grievously irresponsible. Rio put it best, in her “Fat is a Symptom, Not a Disease” series:

I think it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would be so upset over the associated weight gain, when the drugs often make a person feel as if his or her life is worth living again. I’m tired of hearing the fatophobes shrieking about it, trying their damnedest to drag down those who have finally been able to stand up again, just because their bodies are different.

So tell me, fat-haters, are you really so shallow and juvenile that you would rather see someone institutionalized than fat? Hanging themselves instead of fat? I’ve really begun to wonder if the fat-hate is not just about fat, but about an excuse to be misanthropic to anyone who is socially vulnerable. After all, the mentally ill you used as a punching bag in ages past have now become functional fat people, so whom are you going to punch in their place?

Of course, if someone doesn’t need antidepressants, and can get by with a new attitude (*cough*FA*cough*), decent nutrition for a change, regular exercise, a supportive therapist, etc., I am all for that. I’m sure that not everyone who’s depressed over being fat is suffering from a neurotransmitter imbalance; many are just reacting rationally to a hostile environment. And even some of us who do have neurotransmitter problems can get by fine most days without drugs, and overall I’m in favor of that, at least for me (I just don’t have the free time to embark on the medical odyssey of Finding the Right Antidepressant, since the wrong one is often so catastrophic, and meanwhile I can get along without them). I am not saying that anyone who exhibits symptoms of depression should be medicated. But to halfway acknowledge with one hand that fat stigma might be the problem, and on the other hand to discourage medication because it might make people fat? That is egregious victim-blaming, tantamount to saying “well, people can be cruel, and the best way to avoid that is to fit in perfectly.” If people are left unmedicated, it should be because they don’t need medication or prefer to have it as a last resort — NOT because it might contribute to a body that invites stigma. I appreciate the desire to reduce the levels of body-related stress that fat and depressed people are experiencing, but refusing to treat the stress because it might exacerbate the stressor is just nonsense. It’s like handing out plastic surgery to combat teenage angst.

In any event, this is a good reminder: While you’re exploring intuitive eating and exercise for its own sake and all that physically healthy stuff you thought was off-limits because you were fat, don’t forget to keep an eye on your mental health too. It’s reasonable to feel burdened sometimes, by expectations and stereotypes and mistreatment, but if you can’t climb out from under the stress (about your body, or about anything in your life), don’t neglect self-care in that regard. In the U.S., many cities have women’s centers that offer sliding-scale counseling, if you don’t have access to a therapist. Remember that stress and depression, whether or not it can make you fat as these researchers claim, is certainly more unhealthy for you than fat itself.

Oh Look, Honey! The Duh Truck’s Here Again!

And it brought us a BBC article that drops this staggering bombshell: Obesity may be largely genetic.

MY GOD! COULD IT BE?!? Hang on — I need to go call my fat sisters, fat brother, fat aunts, and fat cousins and ask if they’ve ever heard of such a thing.

The article is shite, but the study it describes sounds pretty good: they evaluated 5,000 pairs of identical and fraternal twins, to sort out how much of body size is genetic and how much is environmental. (Fraternal twins are assumed to have similar eating habits and environments, but don’t have exactly the same genes.*) And looky what that turned up:

Their American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.

NO! Never would have guessed.

Of course, we must remember — as the article hammers home to the point of completely overshadowing the study’s results — not to take this as AN EXCUSE to just eat whatever we want like grown men and women or something. Obesity being more then 3/4 determined by factors outside one’s control is no reason for people to let themselves get fat!


Thanks to Lindsay for being the first to post about this.

*How interesting that the whole study is predicated on this assumption, when I just recently met a woman who has fraternal twin boys, one of whom is bigger than the other — and she told me the pediatrician is on her ass about that kid’s weight. Because of course the only logical explanation for that would be that she’s overfeeding one kid but giving the other a normal amount of food. As, you know, mothers of twins are totally wont to do. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Express micro-news!

You guys, it’s such a total paranoid conspiracy theory that diet and pharmaceutical companies have ANYTHING to do with the obesity hysteria.

I mean, if that were true, wouldn’t they be bringing in just TONS more money these days?

(Via Unapologetically Fat.)

Also, the Duh Truck has visited again for another shipment. Turns out the moral panic about obesity is actually not improving our general well-being, and may actually be doing a lot more harm than good. OH MY GOD MY MIND IS BLOWN.

(My fave part is the doctor saying “It has long been recognized that ‘fat’ does not necessarily equal unhealthy.” My god, what are we even doing here? Everybody already knows that fat isn’t the same as unhealthy! I wonder when all these trolls I’ve been deleting and commenters on the articles we link to and contributors on news shows and pharma-funded researchers and op-ed writers and our friends and family and the rest of the doctors are going to catch up.)

(Via Big Fat Delicious.)

You think?

Breaking news, you guys:

For parents concerned about their overweight teens, new research suggests the best tactic might be to just relax and cook a healthy Sunday dinner.

Pushing diets probably won’t help. Neither will teasing about weight. Instead parents should focus on having frequent family meals, creating a positive atmosphere at mealtimes, promoting physical activity and building self-esteem, the researchers recommend.

The study of more than 2,500 adolescents over five years reinforced several things that doctors have found among their patients – particularly that destructive behaviors such as vomiting or abusing laxatives are prevalent among overweight teens as well as their too-thin peers, and that body attitudes and perceptions can play a big role in future weight problems.

Yes, the shocking news that fat kids deserve love has apparently hit the Associated Press. No longer is it a guarded medical secret that giving kids shit about their fatness causes disordered eating behavior, or that, you know, parents shouldn’t be total dicks. It’s a revolution, y’all.

I can’t imagine being a parent reading this, the cognitive dissonance they must be experiencing, when they’ve been taking in a subtle and sometimes overt “fat shame works!” message for years. On the one hand, here’s an article telling them to love and support their children — that has to be intrinsically appealing. On the other hand, it’s telling them to love and support their children despite those children having bodies that they’ve been told are fundamentally flawed and morally indefensible. It’s certainly interesting to read it as a Shapely Prose blogger or, I imagine, as a commenter — I wanted to shake the paper this morning and say “FUCKIN A, I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT!” For probably the first time, there’s something in the news about the Obesity!Crisis! that actually accords with fatties’ real-life experience.

Of course, we remain a dozen steps ahead of the MSM, since we recognize that it’s not as easy as saying “cook a healthy Sunday dinner” — plenty of parents don’t have the time, money, or energy to cook and serve a dinner that these researchers would consider healthy. But while it’s absolutely crucial that we find a way for all families to get adequate nourishment, I think it’s just as important that we stop poisoning children with hatred and shame. If people can bring themselves to heed this study, it’s more than a baby step. (That is, of course, assuming that people can draw the connection between the counterproductiveness of fat-shaming and their consistently worthless childhood obesity initiatives.)

I’m really curious to see how much attention this gets. It did get picked up in the local commuter paper, which is a digested mashup of AP and WaPo, and I wonder how much further it will go. Common sense on the one hand, challenge to the status quo on the other… will that tension be enough to keep these eminently reasonable conclusions in the news?

Special Delivery from the Duh Truck

Both that headline and this article come courtesy of reader Kate217. Thanks, Kate!

The article is about a new study that shows the following things:

  • Overweight teenagers are just as likely to exhibit disordered eating behaviors (binge eating, using diet pills, vomiting, using laxatives) as thin ones. It just doesn’t make them thin.
  • “A history of teasing about being fat was one of the strongest predictors of risk for being overweight and extreme dieting.”
  • Things get especially bad when it’s your own fucking family telling you you’re too fat.

Any of this news to those of you who have actually been fat? Didn’t think so.

Seriously, though, I’m thrilled that this is out there, since it is news to a whole ton of people. And I’m over the moon that the article ends with the following paragraph. The quote is from the study’s lead author, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota:

“We have seen over the years that it does not work to make people feel worse about their bodies. The data are striking — talking about weight, worrying too much about diet, focusing on it increases risk not only of eating disorders, but also of being overweight.” Instead, she suggests modeling and positive encouragement of healthy behavior like making better food choices and exercising — and unconditional love, regardless of weight.

Emphasis mine, of course. Especially on that last part.