Monday, November 19, 2007

Fat Girls

Or, You're not going to eat that, are you?

Which (the above) got said to me by (a) my father (b) my first serious boyfriend (c) more friends in high school than I can count, about things ranging from bowls of cereal, hamburgers, oatmeal cookies, ice-cream sandwiches, bags of Doritos, boxes of raisins -- and here's the deal: I never was fat. Mind you, I wasn't skinny.

Girls are meant to be skinny: five-feet six, one-hundred and ten pounds, winsome and sweet, that's the goal, if you aren't that in America, well! Does it matter what else you are? I will give you the answer: no, it does not. Brains do not matter. Wit does not matter. Talent? Fuck talent. Slender, sweet, chicletness. That is all.

How clear was this made to me?


Which is why this matters so much to me.

It's yet another study, this one published in JAMA, reporting that being overweight is not, in fact, so bad for you -- and in some circumstances protects you.

The most surprising finding was that being overweight but not obese was associated only with excess mortality from diabetes and kidney disease -- not from cancer or heart disease. Moreover, the researchers found an apparent protective effect against all other causes of death, such as tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and injuries. An association between excess weight and nearly 16,000 deaths from diabetes and kidney disease was overshadowed by a reduction of as many as 133,000 deaths from all other deaths unrelated to cancer or heart disease. Even moderately obese people appeared less likely to die of those causes.

Why does this matter to me?

Well, because all those folks who are always ragging on young girls, and not so young girls, about how they need to lose that weight, like to pretend it's the girls' health they care about - you're fat! It's a health issue! -- but this is shit, and anyone who listens to the discourse of these folk can see that. It's a class issue, it's a moral issue, it's the patriarchy, it's some form of oppression (which was why that ex-boyfriend of mine was using it to keep me in line) but whatever it is, it is not the girls' health they care about.

Which is why, when these studies showing that it is, in fact, actually healthy to be a bit overweight started showing up, these groups react so rabidly:

It's just rubbish," said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It's just ludicrous to say there is no increased risk of mortality from being overweight. . . . From a health standpoint, it's definitely undesirable to be overweight."

Or see this: (From our side, I weep to say):

I'm sorry, being fat does NOT make you a minority or victim of discrimination. I'm not saying people don't discriminate against overweight people, but they also discriminate against blondes, bald guys, etc. - calling yourself a minority because you're fat is taking it too far. Unlike your racial status or sexual orientation, you actually CAN control your weight to a very large extent. Yes, genetics plays a part, but most people who are overweight eat too much or exercise too's just a fact. Comparing being fat to being a racial minority demeans the meaning of what it is to be a minority.
How do I know I'm gonna get flamed for saying that?
Posted by: raginfem
November 8, 2007 03:43 PM

I'm not really a pro-weight person (I accept that past a certain level health is affected, and I really think anyone past that point should focus on their health for their own good) but...
children with medical disorders and...parents who overfed their children to the point of diabetes or making them bedridden. I've often thought that continuing to feed someone unhealthy food when they were bedridden from obesity and aren't even able to feed themselves should be considered a crime, a bit like bringing razors to a known cutter just because they asked for them, or inducing vomiting in a bulimic. But any such legislation would have to only apply where there is an obvious, overwhelming issue.
Posted by:
Basiorana November 8, 2007 03:45 PM

Basiorana, show me one incidence of a child being bedridden from obesity, and unable to feed themselves, and their parents continue to stuff them full of junk food. Just one.
Raginfem, if it was possible to change your race or sexual orientation, would that make discriminating against racial minorities and homosexuals suddenly okay? I hate that line of argument, because it totally comes across as: "Well obviously everyone would choose to be a straight white male if they could, but since they can't, it's wrong to insult them."
Posted by: under_zenith
November 8, 2007 03:49 PM

"Is that supposed to be some kind of eugenics program to discourage people who are genetically prone to being overweight from reproducing (or at least living in that state)?"
I'm sorry, but that's an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. In the '70s there were not nearly as many obese children and guess what - those people probably had similar genes to what people today have, even in the same families. Most kids I know who are obese stuff their faces all day with absolute crap and don't exercise. When obesity "runs" in families they've found that shared eating habits contribute just as much if not more to the weight than genetics. I'm guessing if you fed these kids who are "genetically prone to being overweight" healthy food for several weeks and had them play outside for a few hours every day, their excess weight would somehow magically disappear...
Posted by: raginfem

(Others on the thread do go on to settle these two! Yay for us!)

So: diets don't work (there are a billion studies out on that one); and if diets did work, skinny isn't healthy; and if skinny was healthy (which it ain't), being a little overweight ain't so bad and might actually be better (my dad, who is underweight, got pneumonia and lost 12 pounds this winter, hah, how good is that at 69? Ask his doctor!); and what is dangerous, by the way? What? Guess what the studies have shown is really bad for you?


Dieting kills.

Does that crack you up or what?

Also? Guess what makes kids fatter? Telling them they're fat. That makes them feel bad about their bodies, so they hate their bodies, and have bad body images, apparently, and -- hey, get this, start dieting, and get into that binge-eating cycle, and end up fat! Kids who have been told by parents or coaches or doctors that they're fat tend to end up five pounds fatter than kids who get left alone. (Don't ask me where they find kids in America who get left alone on this issue, b/c where those kids would be I would like to know.)

My kid started coming home from school when she was seven asking me if she was fat. (We made a concerted effort never to discuss her weight around her, mr. delagar and I both having had the weight issue visited upon us by our parents.) Apparently, all the girls in her first-grade class were on diets. At six and seven years old!

We don't keep a scale in the house. We don't talk about what anyone weighs. When the kid starts on about whether she's fat, I give the fat is a feminist issue rant, and tell her how diets are used to oppress women, and how she needs to eat to keep her brain working, and how dieting will actually harm her and causes the problems it is meant to solve and how she had better never ever ever diet, did she hear me? Did she?

Also no TV and a deal of hiking and other exercise.

They have hour-long recesses at the Montessori school.

She still starts up with the Am I Fat? questions, though*. It's in the rotten culture. It makes me ill.

*And no, she isn't.

1 comment:

PlaceOfDreamz said...

well i was doing a yahoo search for metaphysical/pagan in fort smith and was wisked to your blog..i have to say that i enjoyed my visit and agree with you on the fat issue (as well as others) but then i would being as i am fat! i am also from fort smith, graduated from what was then called westark community college. dont pay any attention to my typing, i dont believe in bothering with caps..takes too much time pushin that