Fatty Fat Fat, Justify Your Existence, Perhaps I have foot-in-mouth disease

More Thoughts on Fat

[TW: discussions of fat-shaming]

So no one knows my blog exists, but that’s not a reason to leave my own statements unaddressed. If you skip the vibrator ad and shithole alert below, the post after that (before that?) was about fat. This post is more about fat.

I read this post, and this post, and this post, and this article about a study, and I get it. I also totally agree that calling thin people with internal fat deposits “‘thin inside, fat outside'” is idiotic and offensive.

I still have some reservations, and am trying to figure out if they are the result of societal brainwashing, or what…but I have these questions, and I apologize in advance if/when they offend, but they are genuine questions and not snide, “imma troll ‘n’ i haychu no matter whachu say!” rhetorical devices.

If being obese for many people (because the rates *have* empirically gone up) is inevitable and a natural thing, why have the rates gone up? (although I think the “explosion” has more to do with really shitty measures like the BMI, I think we would still find with better measures that the rates have gone up)

If rates have gone up due to “better nutrition” (i.e. more food, not necessarily healthier food), or “less need for children to do manual labor,” does that mean, just because the increase is happening and in some sense “natural,” does that mean it’s a good thing? Do you think that having more obese kids and adults is a positive thing for the nation? If not, how can we discourage obesity without fat-shaming?

Are overweight/obese/fat people more or less likely to live healthy lifestyles that reduce their risks of health problems traditionally associated with obesity? A fat person who lives a healthy lifestyle (doesn’t eat crap and exercises)  may be just as healthy as a thin person doing the same, but if the percentages of fat and thin people who live healthily are different, it would be useful to ask why. (I’m flagging my own prejudice that thin people are more likely to exercise and eat healthily, probably because when I was fatter than I am now I had a lot of inertia when it came to getting off the couch, and was also less likely to cook – maybe I was just lazier in my youth.)

And lastly…obviously I don’t know the history of the scientific literature on obesity and health risks. Is it long and old enough that it is an established trend? Because the health world is always going “ZOMG!” over stuff that is just new, and not substantiated – as it seems they went overboard with the “FAT WILL KILL YOU!” line – so is the literature saying fat is good/neutral any more reliable than the anti-fat literature? (I am going to ask my mom to look into this for me. That’s what she gets for asking me to translate a medical article for her from a language I’m still a beginner in. Quid pro quo!)

And…much as I know it sounds terrible to say this…but I have some non-health concerns about fat. They sounded horribly discriminatory when I wrote them out…but I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of totally sanctioning fatness. I don’t know what to think.



4 thoughts on “More Thoughts on Fat

  1. It is possible to be healthy and fat at the same time. In my mother’s most recent check-up, everything came back pretty close to average except for weight. She eats well, walks everywhere, and is still fat. I think the main problem with the “healthy eating” stuff is that it concentrates more on how people look than how people feel health-wise. And non-health concerns about fat are just issues of aesthetics, quite frankly.

    (I realize that this is an old post, and from the sidebar it looks like your views my have changed/be in the process of changing, I just thought I’d get my two cents in anyway.)

    Posted by alexthesane | April 26, 2011, 17:11
  2. Hey, so I was just skimming your blog after you posted the link to the Feminism and Kink page, and this post caught my eye – it’s a topic near and dear to me as a fat woman who’s struggled with my weight my entire life.

    You asked: “If being obese for many people (because the rates *have* empirically gone up) is inevitable and a natural thing, why have the rates gone up? (although I think the “explosion” has more to do with really shitty measures like the BMI, I think we would still find with better measures that the rates have gone up)”

    I’ve been reading (layperson articles as well as peer-reviewed literature) and thinking about these issues for a LONG time, and here’s what I’ve come to. We know that genetics play a HUGE role in obesity: obesity is 75-85% heritable, compared to 90-95% for height. Yet we know that heritability isn’t everything, because height has increased in recent years as nutrition has improved, but the proportion of people at the upper levels of the BMI spectrum has increased even more dramatically.

    We also know that the BMI standards changed dramatically in 1998, which by itself increased the proportion of the population considered overweight or obese, as many people considered “normal” under the old criteria were now “overweight”, and so on. But even that doesn’t seem to explain everything.

    We also know that there are many chemicals, all of which are incredibly common in our environment today, and became common during the 1970s – i.e., around the same time as the start of our so-called obesity epidemic! – which have become known as “obesogens.” These chemicals include endocrine disruptors such as BPA (found in plastic and aluminum food containers), PFOA (used on nonstick pans), Phthalates (in air fresheners and shower curtains), and fertilizers and pesticides which seep into water sources (see a good summary here – it’s Dr. Oz, ugh, but still good). But, if the endocrine disruptors are at fault, why isn’t *everyone* fat, right?

    Then I read these recent studies, summarized well over at Dr. Sharma’s blog (he’s a bariatric physician in Canada who studies and writes about obesity issues):

    1. Inactivity does not explain Canada’s obesity epidemic – Overweight and obese people get nearly the same amount of exercise as “normal”-weight people, and those slight differences are more than made up for by the extra energy expenditure required to move a heavier body.

    2. Eating more calories increases weight in some people, maybe, sometimes – between 1971-2006, all men increased their caloric intake, but normal-weight men increased their caloric intake *more* than overweight or obese men! Overweight and obese women increased their intake slightly more than “normal” weight women, but again these slight differences are more than made up for by their extra energy expenditure (see #1 above).

    3. Overweight kids are more sensitive to obesogenic environment – like with #3 above, ALL kids are not getting enough physical activity, but risk factors (e.g., number of hours of TV watching) have a MUCH greater effect on BMI for children already at the upper end of the BMI spectrum. “Thus, kids who are genetically predisposed to obesity are far more likely to pack on the pounds when spending hours in front of the TV than kids who are genetically less obesity prone. The same could probably be said for overeating or any of the other environmental drivers of obesity, which have much greater effects in terms of promoting weight gain in some kids than in others.”

    4. Genetic effects on obesity increases with obesogenic environment – in which people genetically predisposed to obesity are more affected by risk factors (e.g., diet, number of hours of TV watching) than people not so predisposed. So, as he says, “while everyone is sedentary, get too little sleep, is stressed out and, therefore, eats too many calories – those with the greatest genetic load will gain the most weight, while those with no genetic risk will be just fine (we all know these people).”

    This pretty much tosses the whole concept of “calories in – calories out” right out the window. “Normal”-weight men increased their caloric intake more than overweight or obese men, and everyone gets too little activity – normal, ovverweight, and obese people alike. Meanwhile, only people who already have high BMIs (i.e., those who are genetically prone) are the only ones who are being affected by “risk factors” such as increased caloric intake and TV watching – AND, I would argue, the prevalence of endocrine disruptors in the environment.

    The genetics have always been there, and there have always been overweight and obese people in the population, but we seem to be shifting further up the BMI spectrum in the last 40-50 years (certainly I see it in my own family and friends). Endocrine disruptors have come out in this time period, but yet not everyone is obese. These studies are the keys, I believe: endocrine disruptors are selectively affecting those with genetic predispositions towards obesity, shifting them further up the BMI spectrum than they would have been otherwise, contributing to what so many are rushing to call the “obesity epidemic.”

    I was going to address your question about whether one can be both fit AND fat, but I’ve already written way too much, so let me just say this: ABSOLUTELY! There are many of us obese people out there who climb mountains, run marathons, dance, and etc. and etc. and etc. More and more studies are showing that fitness is more important than BMI when it comes to health outcomes as well (see, e.g., article on NPR).

    Posted by viajera | August 1, 2011, 12:42
    • Thanks for commenting. I’ve been meaning to write a new post about fat and body image for a few months, because my ideas have changed SO DRASTICALLY since then it’s painfully embarrassing to read this one. @_@ Live and learn!

      Posted by startledoctopus | August 1, 2011, 13:01

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