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28 August 2005 @ 04:26 pm
A War on Fat People  
On my forum today we're having a discussion about the Obesity Epidemic as trumpeted by news outlets and women's magazines everywhere. An interesting article by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson cites statistics at odds with those most recently being quoted. NAAFA has always maintained that some obesity researchers have ties to the diet industry, and that ill effects of obesity are fraudulently exaggerated in order to drive more people into the arms of diet centers. As a thin man with no ties to either side, Tucker Carlson has no obvious axe to grind by pointing this out. He has a platform to rant about any subject he chooses--and he chose this one.

While I do agree with my doctors that at my weight, with heart disease, I'd be healthier if I could once again lose some weight slowly and safely, I am concerned about our nation gearing up recently for a wholesale assault against fat.

Between the diet industry, the fashion industry, the cosmetic industry, and the fitness industry, there are a whole lot of people making money off of scaring even slightly overweight Americans into crash dieting and hyper-exercising, completely screwing up their relationship to food and to themselves. Once you divorce eating from hunger cues, you set yourself up for an eating disorder, as well as driving your metabolism ever lower.

Now doctors are even encouraging teenagers to have gastric bypass surgeries, which will limit their digestive system's ability to process nutrients for the rest of their lives. Some of them are developing illnesses from vitamin deficiencies already, what to speak of their need for calcium to protect them against osteoporosis later in life. I doubt a teenager is in a position to make a really informed decision about such a surgery, as desperate as they are to fit in socially at school. (That was the period of time where I ate 200 calories a day!) Their parents are being told that they will die young if they don't have the surgery. It's like emotional blackmail all around. Let's not forget that some of these teens will die on the table.

The rate of childhood obesity is increasing but let's look at what has changed in our lives to make it that way. Sodas and junk food are available at school, and parents don't restrict empty calories at home like they used to. Tired and busy parents simply pacify their children with food and tv.

I think before they all rush to surgery, an intervention needs to be done for the whole family. Just like an alchoholic can't get better while living in the family that enabled the behavior, focusing only on the overweight family member rather than the family lifestyle, diet and interactions is always going to fail. Let's intervene in children's total environment, from the junk food they see hawked on tv constantly in all their programming to the junk they serve at school and the sugar cereals and fat-laden snacks in the cupboard at home. Let's get kids moving at school and at home again. Surgery is just one more example of how Americans want to solve their problems--quickly and with minimal effort on their part. (The irony is when you see interviews of gastric bypass patients who've lost weight they always say it wasn't just the surgery, that they have learned to eat differently and exercise...which they could have done previously. Surgery was a brutal way to force their hand. It would be about as cheap to have a drill sargeant follow you around and keep you in line. )

And my Goddess, downsize portions throughout our eating establishments! I'm tired of lugging home containers of food because even I, a large woman, can't possibly eat the huge serving platters of food they set before me in the average restaurant now.

Some say the supersizing of portions in all eating establishments, not just burger joints, has given us a skewed idea of what our portions should be at home. Our per capita consumption of various foods seems to bear this out.

I say America is getting fatter because we are a nation of crash dieters who became eating disordered as a result. Our culture emphasizes thinness so much that we are willing to kill ourselves to be thin--with, ironically, the opposite result. Add to that our sedentary work, a physical layout to our cities and suburbs that discourages walking or biking, and ubiquitous fast food and large serving sizes, and you have a recipe for disaster.

While I am not one for legislating changes, I would hope that before we take out our fear of fat on fat people in America we take a look at how our collective lifestyles contribute to the problem and make voluntary changes where ever we can.

Regardless of the reasons behind a fat person's weight, I think each of us ought to be treated with respect. You'd think if more of us are getting fat that fat discrimination would be a thing of the past. Sadly that is not the case. It seems that our own self hatred comes to the fore, and someone who is only 30 pounds overweight feels justified in ridiculing someone else who is 100 pounds overweight. Or someone who is thin but feels bad about the junk they eat feels better temporarily if they joke about the eating habits of a fat person eating ice cream.

Consider for a moment the hypocrisy of making a fat person feel bad when they are out of the house getting exercise so they can lose some weight. If you are yelling insults at a fat person on a bicycle or at the beach, you are part of the problem. See how soon they feel like getting out there and exercising again. There actually are fat people who are afraid to leave their home for just that reason. (I recommend that they get involved in NAAFA and get more militant about their own right to be treated with respect where ever they go.) I can understand why they turn to weight loss surgery as their means of escaping virtual house arrest.

When we talk about a war against fat, remember that what really happens is that we make war on fat people.
 
 
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