Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Week in Fat Shaming

"We’re fat, folks. Seriously, dangerously fat. And you don’t need statistics to tell you that; you just need to look around. All three people ahead of me in line in a food shop in Des Moines last month qualified as morbidly obese; they had 900 pounds — easy — among them. One of every two people in line with me at a Coney Island concession stand last weekend were carrying at least 25 extra pounds."
Frank Bruni, Trimming A Fat City, New York Times, June 2

This bit of fat-shaming offensiveness comes in the middle of  Bruni's op-ed in defense of Mayor Bloomberg's anti-insanely large soda initiative. The idea behind the initiative--and I am still pissed off from when Bloomberg tried to take away my salt bagel--is that people need to be forced to drink less soda. I also think big sugary drinks are sort of gross, and I don't consume them or buy them for my kids. But it's a free country, as we used to say in the schoolyard at St. Theresa's! And there is no evidence that making people buy smaller drinks will affect obesity rates, which have leveled off according to recent reports.

Despite the endless sanctimonious lecturing on healthy eating that masquerades as "education," no one knows what really causes people to gain weight. The belief is that people eat too much crap and don't exercise enough, but that doesn't explain the fact that most everyone who loses weight through dieting gains it back. Nor does it take into account the people who eat "wisely," exercise copiously and still weigh more than they'd like.

There are many other possible factors. Research has linked inadequate sleep to weight gain; is government going to control the number of hours that we sleep? A study showed that keeping your house too warm could possibly contribute to weight gain. Are we now legislating where people set their thermostats?

In another stab at obesity control, Disney just announced it would stop showing junk food ads on its tv channels and make the kids' meals at its theme parks less disgusting. I am all for the theme park food improvements, although I hope never to set foot in another theme park as long as I live.

As far as the ads go, it's hard to be against Disney's decision to limit junk food ads aimed at kids under 12 (which Bob Iger said was made for business, not altruistic reasons). My kids have never watched many commercials for junk food ads (because we're mean horrible parents who limit their tv watching, while allowing ourselves unholy amounts of tv). And even if your kids do see a lot of ads, that doesn't mean you have to buy the stuff.

In closing, I'd like to say that although dieting has been linked to eating disorders, no one is talking about taking Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ads off the air. That's because society is a lot more repulsed by fat people than those who die from self-imposed starvation. We can't have overweight people cavorting around, marring the landscape.


  1. There is so much genuine concern and so much discrimination and hatred around obesity. And you're right: we don't really know all of the causative factors. My sister, who eats horribly and has her entire life and never exercises, is rail thin. I work out, eat fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts and have had an ongoing weight problem since my early forties. (And before then, I always had monitor my food intake carefully to avoid weight gain.) My husband and I eat the same food, exercise together, and he, too, is very slender. So go figure. I think it's important to do everything one can to avoid obesity -- which is so very hard to change -- but fat-shaming and heavy-handed laws don't help.

    You make such good points about limiting t.v. (for a lot of reasons) and also not buying junk food just because the kids see in on t.v. or elsewhere and ask for it. So many healthy (or unhealthy) eating habits begin in childhood, at home.

  2. Completely agreed. And I find it interesting that, with all the furious sanctimony of fat shaming going on, one hardly ever hears a peep about the dangers of tanning, despite the fact that UV exposure has a much more clearly demonstrated health risk, is easy to prevent and is frequently done on purpose. But it isn't considered unattractive and let's face it, that's all any of this is really about.

  3. And how about a shout out to the real victims here who no one seems concerned about: Your poor, TV-starved children! As a regular reader of your blog I believe you are a good person and a wonderful mother...but as someone who can literally act out every episode of "The Facts of Life" from memory, and recall in intricate detail the ins and outs of every tawdry plot and subplot from "Knots Landing", my heart goes out to anyone who cannot gorge themselves on crappy TV unrestricted for all the live-long day.
    Please, I beg of you, for the children, at least give them carte blanche to disney channel on demand for "Good Luck Charlie" if nothing else. Remember, anyone can read a book or frolic outside in the yard, but how many of us can sing the theme song to "Silver Spoons" beginning to end? It's the kind of gift that will just keep on giving.