Guest Post 2 – Enough is Enough by Dr Samantha Thomas

Published July 11, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I am more than thrilled to share with you the news that Dr Samantha Thomas, sociologist specialising in weight and body image issues, is back with another guest post here on Fat Heffalump.

I talk of the inflaters of the world, those people who raise people around them up rather than crushing them down, and for me, Samantha is one of the inflaters I have in my life, and I believe she inflates people all around her.

She joins us today to talk further on the double standards of several “Body Image Advocates” here in Australia, and to issue a call to arms for all who wish to change the climate of body shame not just here in Australia, but around the world.  Over to our guest:

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Enough is Enough

I don’t often get away with my dudes to a place where I have total isolation from the media. The last 4 days have been a media free zone for us – no phones, no computers, no newspapers. It was HEAVEN.

Well you can run, but you can’t hide. And it was slightly amusing that literally a couple of minutes after arriving back home and picking up the Saturday paper I came across this article in the Courier Mail. Australia’s Next Top Model (ANTM) banned a 16 year old from the catwalk because, at a size 8, she was too fat. Now look, I don’t really have any opinions about ANTM. Sorry! I’ve never watched the Ozzie version, and I’m a bit smitten with Miss Jay and the dude with the white hair on the American version. So I’m declaring my conflict of interest and not commenting on the show.

But I WILL comment on the fact that once again a member of Australia’s National Body Image Advisory Group has been caught in another dodgy set of circumstances around the promotion of fat hate. Most of you will know that Mia Freedman, the Chair of the committee has also been criticized for the inconsistency between her role on the committee and the material she promotes on her website. This time it is Sarah Murdoch. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sarah Murdoch she is a former model and host of ANTM. According to Minister Kate Ellis she chose Murdoch and Freedman, “for their work in their industry, not for their looks”.

And so I landed with a thud back from my holiday bliss. And you know what.

I’ve had enough of these inconsistencies.

I’ve had enough of people who are supposed to be advocating for body image declaring “it’s not like I hate fat people”. There is a reason you would have to declare that out loud at a press conference.

I’ve had enough of the confusing messages that are sent when our National Body Image Advisory Committee includes some high profile individuals who then actively promote that certain types of bodies are the beautiful ideal.

I’ve had enough of the new saviour that is obesity surgery. Because when you get an email from a 17 year old who tells you that her obesity surgeon told her to turn the heater off in the winter so that she would shiver and burn more energy thus losing more weight, you realize that this is a profit driven industry out to exploit, not care for people.

I’ve had enough of articles that say that fat stigma will be reduced if we find a cure for obesity. Or that we should tackle fat stigma because it will make it easier for people to engage in healthy activity – oh and lose weight.

I’ve had enough of the emails from people who have asked me if I have any ‘miracles’ because they have been told by their doctors that they have got themselves so fat that they should just give up and wait to die.

I’ve had enough of people being paid lots of money to promote the diet industry, which promises everything, and only delivers physical and emotional pain.

I’ve had enough of the stupidity that somehow has us believe that we will protect young people from eating disorders if we give a magazine a ‘tick’ for declaring its airbrushing practices, but that we still allow that same magazine to run ‘diet’ articles, and advertisements for the weight loss industry.

Most of all, I’ve had enough of the hypocrisy that surrounds the body image/obesity/health debate in this country. And that includes everyone being allowed to be an expert on fat… oh except fat people.

I don’t think there is one person that is reading this that at one time or another hasn’t disliked what they saw in the mirror (or on the scales). I also don’t think that there is one person who is reading this that hasn’t been made to feel bad about their body by someone else. Some of you reading this will encounter this much more than others. And I am standing up and applauding you for the amazing strength and resilience that you show in the face of such a negative public gaze for what your bodies look like, and how they got to be how they are. I honestly don’t know how you do it.

But I do want to let you know that I am with you.  Standing side by side until we sort out this ridiculous situation that we have gotten ourselves into with ‘weight’.

And I will continue to advocate with you for change.  Because when we stand together, we are a very powerful voice indeed.

A voice that is getting stronger.

A voice that is becoming an amazing tool for highlighting the hypocrisy that exists around body acceptance, weight and health in Australia.

Let me give you a great example of the power of that voice in action.

Last week Herald Sun columnist Susie O’Brien weighed in (again) on the obesity debate. But before I write about that, lets have a little recap of some of the things Susie O’Brien has written about body image in the past. First up, in January, when supermodel Jen Hawkins bared all for body image acceptance, Susie wrote:

“I have written so many articles about body image… I have told women to be proud of themselves and told men to adore the flaws.”

She goes on to write.

“We are never going to have genuine body acceptance until people start getting used to seeing real, average, beautiful bodies.”

Now obviously I have issues with these statements. But I could see where she was coming from.  Not helpful, but a little bit heading in the right direction (even in the lets all strip off and show each other we don’t look like Jen Hawkins love fest that we all seemed to be going through at the beginning of the year).

So how then, just a few months later, can Susie O’Brien write this?

“Yes, it’s important that young people feel good about themselves. But it’s also important that young people have the best chance of living a long, healthy life without the serious life-threatening illnesses that come with obesity. Not to mention the teasing and bullying and low self-esteem that many fat kids face. So I want to know what’s being done to help young people who need to lose weight, and who need to get motivated to change their unhealthy bodies, rather than accept them as they are.”

Once again, the same old rhetoric emerges. Lets accept everyone’s real, beautiful bodies, flaws and all.

UNLESS YOU ARE FAT.

But what’s worse is that somehow it’s okay to then invite a bunch of people to participate in a live hate fest on fatties. That fat individuals are lazy. That fat parents were in essence abusing their children. That we should all aspire to be like Susie because her kids ask for broccoli when they get home from daycare.

Now every cloud has a silver lining. And the day that Susie chose to have that live blog was one of the most silver lined clouds I have seen for a while. Because not just one, or two, or three but at least TEN of us joined that live blog to SMASH HOLES in Susie’s arguments. We very clearly and rationally outlined our arguments, and in the process absolutely discredited what she and a bunch of others had to say. We all brought a slightly different perspective to the table, and I know I felt a whole lot better about being in the discussion because I knew others were there with me.

It’s not easy to be a lone voice. I have learnt that the hard way. And I guess that is the point of this post. If we want change, we have to start acting together. There is no doubt that the critics are there. I was on Catalyst about obesity surgery for kids a couple of weeks back and ABC journalist Melanie Tait (who has had a lapband) took it upon herself to very publically try to discredit me. And so many of you jumped in and supported me. And I cannot tell you what a difference that made.

Speaking out also brings emails like this.

“We’ve never met but I recently read your piece ‘Mama Mia and Body Image’ and it was a lifesaver. A total no holds barred lifesaver. Finally someone clearly explaining that I shouldn’t have to hide my body to make it acceptable to others. And that while there is nothing wrong with promoting physical health in the right context, mental health is equally important, and the guilt and shame brought about by being told in a /body image/ setting that you are freaky and need fixing (read here 5 foot 1 and size 20) is incredibly damaging. You have helped me reframe my thinking about this and regain some much needed sanity and perspective. I have sent copies of your piece to my women friends who are all shapes and sizes.”

This is why we do what we do. And why we need to work together. All of us will be able to contribute in different ways. Some of us will want to be on the front line. Others will want to join the discussion in safer spaces. Some might just want to listen and perhaps share pieces with their friends and family members. Some might want to offer a shoulder to lean on (or some much needed spell check skills!!). Everyone has a role to play in creating change.

So who is in? !!!!

By the way. Keep your emails coming. I love them really.  Or follow me on Twitter @samanthastweets

Oh and I reckon Susie is a shoe in for the next vacancy on the National Body Image Advisory Committee! What do you think?

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65 comments on “Guest Post 2 – Enough is Enough by Dr Samantha Thomas

  • When the story came out yesterday about that size 8 teenager on ANTM, I was, to put it mildly, infuriated, and I have now both posted and commented in many different online spaces about my disgust. I contributed (albeit in a very small way) to the advisory board and am gutted that there now appears to be a rapid descent into hypocritcal, shaming and oppositional behaviour by some board members re: the goal of attempting to adress body image issues in Australia. It’s gut wrenching.

    I can only presume that the appointment of Sarah Murdoch to the board was based on her very high profile and potential to hopefully initiate some change in the fashion and modelling sectors. Well – fail. Fail big time. To my mind now there is no form of action open to Kate Ellis other than to ask her to resign or indeed tell her that her services are no longer required. Plain and simple. If she has not learnt anything about this issue after a year of spending time with clinicians, professionals, researchers and experts in the body image and eating disorder field – then she simply does not deserve to be there.

    Throughout the lifetime of the advisory board/code I have defended it vehemently as an optimistic body image advocate. My view was – well at least something is being done. At least we are not just talking about it anymore. Surely this is better than nothing. I now find myself in a position of being wholly unsure about what the bloody hell is going on and am petrified the whole thing is going to become a farce based on the ludicrous actions of some, leaving those who worked so damn hard to get change initiated, out in the cold.

    I am in a real bind here. I want the code and flow on effects to bring about positive change, but now find myself in the untenable position of…well I don’t even know what. My conscious dictates to me that I have to speak out about my concerns. I would be a baseless hypocrit myself if I didn’t. I will need to do so from a reasonably safe place though – and that – is another lengthy comment all together.

    • To be honest Julie, the whole thing looks like a lot of lip service with no real action. Again, it’s all about body image for women and girls who think they are fat, rather than for ALL women and girls. Bodies outside of the rather narrow margin of some arbitrary measurement of “healthy” just seem to be ok to heap disgust on.

      As I said on Twitter last night it seems that the term “healthy body image” has become code for “only if you’re not too thin or fat” in our culture now. Being perpetuated by ex-models, ex-magazine editors and a Minister who believes posing in a magazine in provocative clothing with photographs that may have been airbrushed is a suitable way to promote body image in women and girls. If we want high profile ambassadors, how about some who are from fields outside of the media, modelling and “beauty”. How about some high profile women of all body types and fields up there?

      I’m sorry that those of you who have approached this with balance and good intentions are being drowned out by high profile figureheads with double standards and serious conflicts of interests. Keep doing what you do, for the reasons you do as I believe in the end, you’re the ones that will matter.

  • This is such an important blog post. Thanks Samantha for writing it – and thanks Fat Heffalump for publishing it. I’m tired of all the hypocrisy too. I really liked this point:’ I’ve had enough of the stupidity that somehow has us believe that we will protect young people from eating disorders if we give a magazine a ‘tick’ for declaring its airbrushing practices, but that we still allow that same magazine to run ‘diet’ articles, and advertisements for the weight loss industry’.

    Samantha, I saw you on Catalyst and although you appeared as somewhat of a token addition to the show, what you said was significant. Julie, appreciate your expressing your hesitations about the code too.

    Keep speaking out. Hopefully someting will change.
    Melinda

  • Hi Melinda and Julie,

    I think you are both such amazing examples of what we can do when we bring our collective voices together.

    Melinda, I think the team at Catalyst were actually pretty amazing. This is the most balanced article we have had on obesity surgery. Given that the story was initially a ‘pro banding’ story, we made wonderful inroads into how this issue is presented. And Catalyst were terrific at listening to our point of view and I think the story was quite balanced. One of the problems is that is is soooo difficult to get people to actually speak out about their negative experiences with this surgery.

    That said, I think we need to move past the tokenistic to a more systematic way of responding to the issues we find before us. We need to think about how we do that together. The inconsistencies are so obvious, and we now need to organise ourselves to respond appropriately.

    Julie, I know how hard you have worked in this area, and how hard you continue to work. Part of the saving grace of the committee is that we have people like Claire on the committee, who are at least willing to listen.

    But it’s not enough for me.

    Would love to hear your thoughts about how we might better organise ourselves to respond.

    I am really confident that things will change!

    S xx

  • Samantha, great post! I am so with you on everything you have said.

    My “Enough is Enough” is this:
    That agencies and other vested parties are spending a lot of time and PR $$ trying to convince us that ‘plus’ models are a larger size than they actually are in order to gain unmerited goodwill and glowing press (and therefore subscription increases) for their model size ‘diversity’.

    There are quite a number of US models publicly promoted as a size 12 when they are actually a 6-8. This practice is occurring across both Ford and Wilhelmina agencies, which have PR agencies working overtime on creating a fuss over their larger models. However, it can be shown that there is very little margin between many of the so-called plus models and regular models when used in the same images, for example via Glamour magazine’s July 2010 cover featuring Brooklyn Decker, Crystal Renn (whose bust is smaller than Decker’s) and Alessandra D’Ambrosio. See video here of the Glamour shoot give a clearer and unretouched perspective on the relative sizes of the models, with Renn looking particularly petite even when standing by herself, front on-to camera.

    Similarly, magazines regularly manipulate the height of multiple models appearing in the same image to have them seem of equal height, which is another falsehood of size, and a diversity fail. Some models are shorter than others. What is wrong with that???

    This model size-misrepresentation is infecting Australia, and of course there is nothing in the Code of Conduct that addresses factual representation of model size because the Code does not include any suggestions for best agency practice, nor additionally does it address any implied or otherwise agent responsibility towards good model health – which surely should have been a top priority?!

    Why has the Code merely addressed lowest allowable model age instead of lowest allowable weight/BMI (shudder) or level of health? Too much lobbying from agents and designers, or simply a case of ‘its too hard to choose an objective method’? If the whole recent flareup of debate of ‘size zero’/model sizes/model health came as a result of the deaths of models suffering from apparent agency-sanctioned eating disorders, then why are they disregarded entirely in the Code?

    Frankly, I want to see what they rejected for inclusion in the Code, and ask them how anything of merit could be left out.

    • Wow that is really interesting Pippa and something I hadnt thought of and didnt know about.

      But also it raises a great topic for discussion -

      What is your Enough is Enough?

      Thanks for sharing that – I’m loving how much we all learn from each other in this space!

  • I’m in.

    I’m not sure what I have to offer, other than another voice to add to the volume.

    Sometimes I feel that doing little, token gestures is worse than doing nothing at all. Because now the powers-that-be can pat themselves on the back for doing ‘something’, and move on.

    I agree with Julie. I don’t know how Sarah Murdoch can keep up with her dual roles – judging and criticising young people’s bodies on the one hand, and telling them to love themselves on the other. It must be very confusing for her – it is for the rest of us.

    • Yep, this is all about contributing something. No matter what that is. And you have been an amazing support to me and so many others.

      One of the interesting things for me is why these particular individuals were chosen in the first place. What sort of credentials do you have to have to sit on these types of committees?

      I’m also pretty stunned about the lack of ‘consumer’ voice on these committees.

  • I’m in! This is a very inspiring post and part of getting the message out there to hypocrites is to keep making your voice be heard, just like this. They say that the body image topic is being run into the ground, but I don’t believe it is because there are still a lot of people that just aren’t getting it.

  • I’ve had enough of the new saviour that is obesity surgery. Because when you get an email from a 17 year old who tells you that her obesity surgeon told her to turn the heater off in the winter so that she would shiver and burn more energy thus losing more weight, you realize that this is a profit driven industry out to exploit, not care for people.

    Good god! Seriously, what the fuck?!? I cannot even begin to get into every thing wrong with the second sentence.

    I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had weight loss surgery pushed on me in recent times but this GP I used to have did always tout the lapband as some kind of cure-all….without talking about the risks and possibility of regaining the weight down the road. One day I had enough when I went in to get antibiotics for a frigging strep throat of all things, and still had to hear this shit, so I said “Seriously, like you can’t make it any more obvious that you’re getting commissions from bariatric clinics and clearly don’t give two shits about my health?” and never went back there.

    The thing that deeply disturbs and angers me is that this ZOMFG obesity crisis!!11!!!11 bullshit has permeated so deeply into society, and these surgeons are such money-grubbing vultures, that they are not only just preying on peoples’ insecurities to line their pockets but performing these surgeries on CHILDREN. That just disgusts and angers me the most.

    It shows they truly don’t give a shit about your health, not thinking about the complications these surgeries– which are not necessary or life-saving– could cause at such a young age.

    • That’s pretty much what it all boils down to Rachel. Between the surgeons and lap band companies raking in the dollars at the expense of fat people, and doctors who have the attitude of “get thin or go away”, there is no care at all for the patients actual health. This to me is the biggest problem we face in this fight – because when it all boils down to it, decent health care is a fundamental right and so many of us are being denied it simply on the prejudice of being fat.

  • Ashley! YEY! Great to know you are on board and I totally agree with you.

    Rachel. Im going to try and blog next about the things I have found out about surgery. There are some incredibly serious problems with this, and I think we need to bring them out into the open. I’m angry about it too.

    Sxx

  • You want to know the other funny thing folks?

    I got a comment from someone called “Lose that Back Fat”, with a website linked that was all about diets, weight loss gimmicks and crap, and they were saying “I’m in! I want to call out the double standards too.”

    They just never stop trying do they?

  • and … on this very page is the following ad generated automatically by google -

    Ads by Google
    Lose 41kg W/out Dieting
    As Seen on A Current Affair. Over 100 Kg lost. See Actual Photos.
    GabrielMethod.com.au/Lose41kg

    Even on a site with such good intentions, there are competing messages.

    • Chris, I have talked before about how WordPress gives no options to the blog owners to turn off or change these adverts, but as readers you have the power to do so. Simply create a free WordPress account, log in and you will never see them again. They only appear for non-members.

      • I didn’t realise that it was only non-members who saw the horrible google ads. It upsets me that these appear on my blog too, but that is what happens when you live in diet culture.

        • Yes, and sadly it is our subject matter that attracts them. Use the words diet, fat, weight, gastric banding etc and those are the ads you get.

          Thankfully WP offer free membership that isn’t spammy or annoying, so a quick join up rids them for people viewing blogs.

  • I’m with Samantha, what angers me the most is hypocrisy and misinformation, especially by some of those who are on the National Body Image Advisory Group.

    I’m an optimist and like Julie, I’d like to see the positives in the work of the National Body Image Advisory Group but it’s difficult when their actions and comments exclude so many of us from the debate. The “tick” the National Body Image Advisory Group are implementing seems as laughable and worthless to me as the Heart Foundation tick on food from Maccas.

    Sarah Murdoch said yesterday on Twitter that the story in the media about the size 8 model being told she was too fat for Australia’s Next Top Model was false. I don’t know who to believe but either way, I believe that Sarah’s work with the Advisory Group and on Australia’s Next Top Model conflict.

    I don’t think we will see much real change in body image in Australia while some (not all) of the Advisory Group are wealthy white women who have spent most of their careers working in the fashion industry. Mia Freedman, Sarah Murdoch, etc. are the status quo.

    I see more change happening at a grass roots level (like Samantha says), through her work and through bloggers who challenge, encourage and educate.

  • Great post Samantha. I saw that show on Catalyst and it certainly raised even more concerns regarding WLS. My 25 y/o daughter recently had sleeve surgery and I am worried for her.
    I am not sure how I fit in with other supporters here as I have a fairly significant obesity problem.
    I am 100% in the drive to change the thinking on body image.
    So what have I had enough of?
    I have had enough of people from all walks of life, no matter what you speak to them for; once they find out I have huge obesity issues telling me about the diet or surgery their friend, colleague, mother, father, sister, brother or neighour had.

    • Hey Jan. As owner of this here blog, I just wanted to jump in and say you fit in perfectly here. While I don’t consider my fatness an obesity problem per se, I’m definitely significantly fat. According to the medical profession and BMI scale, I am “morbidly obese”, yet I prefer the term “Super Fatty”! I’m secretly hoping that one day I get a cape and a lycra outfit with a big F on the front.

      I may be a very, very fat woman, but there is absolutely nothing “morbid” about me. However, I once used to see my fatness as a problem, but since becoming part of this whole movement, I no longer do.

      Anyway, no matter what your circumstances, if you’re here and you want to get off the whole crazy rollercoaster of fat loathing and body shame, and want to live your life to the fullest, you fit in and are very welcome.

      • I would love to get of the crazy rollercoaster of fat loathing but I am so confused about my ingrained beliefs, and the stark realities that are my world. I do want to live my life to the fullest, what ever that is and to take joy in the simple things in life.
        Thankyou for welcoming me and I am open to learning all there is.

      • Jan, it’s all a process. You don’t really wake up one day with good self esteem. You have to work at it, practice it and learn from it as you go. Sometimes you slip down a couple of rungs on the ladder, sometimes you stop on the ladder and don’t really have the energy to go further, but as you practice and learn, that ladder slowly but surely leads you upwards.

        The best way to get off that crazy rollercoaster is to surround yourself with other people who are working their way up that ladder. That’s why the fatosphere is fantastic – it’s the best self esteem building tool I have ever found.

  • Great post Sam – you are sooo right about all the inconsistencies. No wonder there’s so much confusion, stigma and societal pressure when it comes to weight, yet not enough wider critical discussion of how private sector interests predominantly drive the weight agenda in ways to pump up their own vested interests and to ‘create’ need for their services.

  • Thanks so much sleepydumpling. I have read your posts a few times but this was the first time I came our of the closet and into the fatoshere :)
    I am still learning to throw of the shackles of my fatness. I wonder oif there is a scale of fatness even. As in how fat is to fat type of thing.
    I wont talk much more at this stage about my own story, not sure of this is the place in the comments section.
    I love reading all the articles and hope to be able to find acceptance in the greater community as well as the blogosphere one.
    Hey I like the sound of that cape, maybe I might get one too? lol
    And I do want to live my life to the fullest.

    • Come on out of the closet, it gets too dark and squishy in there!

      Scale of fatness! You made a pun! I love it.

      There actually isn’t a scale, because fat is subjective. What is “really fat” to one person is “a bit fat” to another. That’s the whole thing about fatness – you just can’t tell a thing about a person by their body. Some people look fatter than they are, some people look healthier than they are, some people look smarter than they are.

      It really doesn’t matter what shape or size a person’s body is, but we have to convince the rest of the world of that yet. That’s what we’re here to do.

      And fat capes for everyone I say. In all the colours of the rainbow.

  • I want to thank you Samantha! I of course support and am behind you on this very justified rant. When I posted the story on my FB page, people were only focused on the small picture of the show & its bad message send to people. I had to immediately shed light on what I feel is a WAY bigger issue. I believe the issue is bigger than this show. It goes to body image advocacy & groups trying to inspire change. It’s critical to make known inconsistencies in the movement, even in different countries. In my opinion, the shows move was ridiculous and gains a LOT of PR and thrives on drama at the expense of body image and self esteem. But my concern…is with these body image councils set up (In whatever country or foundation), who are involved and whether actions align with words. I am trying to see the big picture here as a body image advocate. Of course I am upset by the show, but I am not shocked. I am more focused on the big picture in advocacy and spokespeople and so called body image advocates. I would like to see Sarah Murdoch & others who consistently go against their words in the actions to step down or be removed from the national council in Australia. I am sick and tired of the inconsistencies. I work my ass (oops sorry cuss word lol) to be a consistent body image advocate, open to discussions and dialogues with other advocates. I know I will not always agree with people, but I know honestly the life I live doesnt go against the words I fight for on a daily basis. How people like Sarah, Mia, and others get HUGE platforms to share their voices, while I work my butt off with a more positive, broad, self accepting message is infuriating :) Ok mini rant over. Love your work Samantha as always.

  • Make mine a bright red cape please?

    Oh and Sam, you want to get some insight into how badly wrong gastric banding and re-routing can go? Read these blogs;
    http://blog.hannie.org/blog or http://hannie.wordpress.com

    They belong to a good friend of mine who underwent the full deal, she got up to over 300 pounds (don’t feel like converting to kilos) and after exploring all her options, underwent the procedure. She is the most positive, strong person I have ever had the privilege to know. She’s also an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights. Read her blog, which varies between her political stuff (outspoken lady on many topics, this one! Never afraid to open her mouth when she sees something that just ain’t right) and personal life, as well as her medical stuff. I think she does have a blog specifically for her medical bits and bobs. Or feel free to email her and ask hannie@hannie.org tell her Amber sent you :-)

  • This is such a lovely discussion. So many great perspectives and points of view. I learn so much from you guys!

    I was chatting with Spilt Milk about this, and I think one of the most important things is that we keep the discussion going. That we have spaces like this where we can openly disucss our different take on things. Sometimes we wont necessarily agree with each other, but I hope that we continue to appreciate that there are spaces where we can have these discussions and understand a range of different point of views.

    I know I still have loads to learn about this topic and peoples experiences, and Im really appreciative that you all contributed here :)!

    Thanks loads (oh an keep the discussion going!!)

    S xx

  • I would like one of you lovely ladies to help me understand. At what point do we realise that our weight is affecting our health and do something about that? I work as a nurse and a midwife and I would never criticise someone about their weight but I might, if it were appropriate, point out to them how weighing less could help them ( and their baby as the case maybe). I treat people of any size the same way in my everyday life and don’t judge or give advice, that goes without saying. But due to me profession I can see the benefits of losing weight on someone’s health, male or female. So how do I come to see it from your point of view. Because it my mind it is not acceptable to weigh whatever and be happy about it (big or small). I don’t mean any of this to offend I just don’t understand.

    • Sorry. Thought I checked it over properly. Apologies for some of the grammar. And I should reword the phrase ‘it is not ALWAYS acceptable to weigh whatever and be happy about it’. What I mean by that is that if what you weigh is affecting your health, ie. high blood pressure, diabetes, or the other end of the scale loss of menstruation, fatigue then perhaps you should stop being completely happy with it and try to get to a place where those health problems don’t exist. That doesn’t have to be skinny or even the healthy range BMI it just has to what works for an individual body. That where I’m coming from.

      • Erin my reply to you below was written before your addendum here appeared, so disregard the last part of my reply.

        One can be completely happy with their weight but not with their health, and vice versa. I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Also, see what I said below: you can by all means encourage someone with diabetes to be more active and eat a low GI diet (if they don’t do this already) but that is not the same as encouraging them to change their weight.

    • Hi Erin.
      It is very ‘normal’ in our culture to think that there is a direct link between someone’s weight and their health. This is largely a wrong assumption. I won’t go into all the details of the Health At Every Size paradigm here because there isn’t space and I haven’t the time, but I do urge you to please do some research. You can use google, or search here or at my blog or other FA blogs for links to some resources. Linda Bacon’s website is a good place to start, Shapely Prose, The Fat Nutritionist, Junkfood Science, Fat Lot Of Good…

      What I really want to address in your comment is your belief that people have control over how much they weigh, and that if a midwife or nurse advises them to ‘weigh less’ they can simply go ahead and do that. This is a dangerous assumption because it is used against fat people again and again and again. There is absolutely no evidence to support a belief that more than a tiny percentage of people (around 4%) can permanently lose weight by any method. Even modest amounts of weight. So when you advise a patient to lose weight you are advising her to try to do something she almost certainly cannot do more than temporarily. (If this changes, and we discover a reliable way to permanent weight loss, then this conversation may change, but we haven’t disovered that yet, and perhaps never will.) Now, you may think that it’s worth giving that advice anyway, because in the case of pregnancy it is a temporary situation so maybe temporary weight loss would do? Wrong. Most people who lose weight regain it, and then some more. And worse than that: there is significant evidence to show that weight cycling is very unhealthy. Some studies have proven that weight loss is linked to higher morbidity,and not just in people who lose weight for underlying health reasons. Again: I’m not going to trawl through to find sources for this but they are there, please have a look for yourself. (By the way, in the case of pregnancy – there is evidence to suggest that mothers who diet when pregnant are more likely to have obese children. So, you’re not really helping anyone be less fat by encouraging dieting, mother or baby. Really not.)

      Now, some people, fat or thin, are sedentary and don’t eat very well and consequently that’s not great for their health. So as a healthcare provider, there are certainly things you can suggest to do with HEALTH which may help your patients. But if you frame it in terms of WEIGHT you are not likely to get anywhere useful. Fat people know they’re fat. Fat people don’t need to be harrassed (however politely, or with whatever good intentions) about the size of their bodies. But I for one certainly welcome evidence-based, sound, health advice that is suitable for me coming from health professionals. (A HAES perspective can ensure you give that to your patients: something to keep in mind.)

      As a midwife, you may be particularly interested in reading some of the great pieces by The Well-Rounded Mama, who writes about midwifery-related topics from a HAES perspective http://wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/

      Finally, I really take issue with your assertion that it’s not acceptable to be happy about what one weighs, whatever that weight may be. Why on earth not? How is it productive to encourage people to feel ashamed of themselves, to hate their bodies, to wish they were different? I’m here to tell you that shaming fat people DOES NOT WORK.

      And it’s offensive. Please don’t do it.

      Instead, think about how each body is unique, and each person’s experience of health is unique. Everyone who wishes to strive to be fit and healthy should be encouraged to do so: but that should NEVER be reliant on striving for a particular weight.

      • Thank-you this has definitely helped me understand and take different view. Still needs changing though I know. But I will say that I wouldn’t tell pregnant women to diet, I teach all pregnant women how to eat healthily. I think my problem is I see weight first and use that as the guiding tool and not peoples overall health and diet and that is why I asked for someone to explain it to me. I would never intentionally shame someone about their weight. Eating a well balanced diet made up of fresh ingredients and regular exercise will mean that people will either lose or gain weight depending on their size. Most people could benefit from that. If your weight affects your physical health then it will also be having some effect on your mental health. So perhaps instead of using the words ‘happy’ and ‘weight’ I should use the terms ‘satisfied’ and ‘health’. It can’t be denied that although not the only factor in ill health the amount of ‘fat’ someone carries can and does affect their health. It is just not the only thing. I also know that research can be used to show whatever someone wants it to. Your argument and mine.

      • Erin, good on you for checking that the pregnant women in your care are making nourishing food choices for themselves and their baby. The point here though is that the old “truth” that if we want to change our weight we simply either put less energy into the body, or use more energy by moving more, is plain wrong. There are *still* no studies that prove this hypothesis. So if people switch from eating highly processed foods to eating more nutritionally-dense foods, their weight may or may not change, they may gain or lose weight – that’s not predictable, despite what “everyone knows”.
        What the studies do tell us is that when people move more, it’s likely their health will improve in ways that ARE meaninful and measureable. You’ll find the Health at Every Size science very thought-provoking.
        One point on mental health and weight – people do suffer emotional pain, lowered self-esteem, and even depression about their weight. That’s mostly because of the stigma, and sometimes because of the chemical effects of poor food choices – it’s really not because their fat cells have a chemical effect on mood.
        Excuse me jumping in on the conversation.

    • Erin, pretty much every fat person has already had plenty of health professionals suggest they lose weight. The HPs may be genuinely well-intentioned and trying to be helpful. But think of that, and the fact that our entire society is “weight loss good and healthy!”, and that there is no shortage of methods from “lifestyle changes” right through to surgery. You can be pretty much 100% certain that the person knows they’re fat, has already had weight loss suggested to them already, and has tried many times to lose weight. If weight loss actually worked long term, few people would be fat. Countless studies and the lived experience of fat people show this.

      I second the recommendation to read up on Health At Every Size (Linda Bacon’s book is fantastic), and the Well-rounded Mama blog. And Fat Nutritionist. ‘Rethinking Thin’ by Gina Kolata is another good book.

      You could do a great thing for your patients’ mental and physical health here. My own health only improved when I decided not to see doctors who recommended weight loss (however well intentioned) and instead found ones who believed health could improve independent of the number on the scale.

  • Erin, I’m really glad that you’re open to learning more, and that you are conscious of respecting people’s right to not be shamed for their appearance.

    Just a little note on this claim that you made: “Eating a well balanced diet made up of fresh ingredients and regular exercise will mean that people will either lose or gain weight depending on their size.”

    That may be true of some people but, as a blanket statement, it is completely false. Even if people experience initial changes in weight after ‘lifestyle changes’ it is very likely (not certain) that their body will return to their original weight. They would obviously be healthier, though, if they had not been exercising or eating a balanced diet previously.

    Linda Bacon’s HAES study showed this: participants improved their health but their weight did not change. I really think all health professionals should read ‘Health At Every Size’, it’s an important book.

  • Erin, the fact that higher weight is correlated with a higher risk of certain health conditions doesn’t actually mean that losing weight will either prevent, improve or cure the condition. Correlation is not causation. The higher weight itself may be caused by genetics, medical conditions, medications, socio-economic status, environmental factors, lifestyle factors, stress, etc. All of which can have effects on the body besides weight. There are studies which demonstrate that the cultural stigma against fat contributes to ill health. Very few studies have ever proven a direct causational role between higher weight and poor health. If you read the actual studies, and look at the NNT and relative risk and so on, you often get a very different picture than the abstract and summary papers present.

    I have seen various meta studies and reports over the years which paint an inaccurate picture of weight and health because they assume a direct causative role between high weight and health. For example, if I answered a public health survey honestly and put down my high weight, and my high blood pressure, I’d go down as helping ‘prove’ weight causes hypertension. In fact it’s caused by my polycystic kidney disease and I never had hypertension until more than a few cysts appeared.

    I believe it’s really important for health professionals to understand the multifactorial and complex issues of weight and health, including statistics and manipulation of communication by research orgs and medical/pharmaceutical companies. I will not go back to a doctor, nurse, allied, etc who believes in the weight-centred paradigm.

  • @Erin, I would just like to challenge your thinking on this statement:

    “Eating a well balanced diet made up of fresh ingredients and regular exercise will mean that people will either lose or gain weight depending on their size.”

    Firstly, as Spilt Milk says, it is a false assumption. The overwhelming majority of people, no matter their size, will revert back to somewhere around their original weight.

    Secondly, you assume that if someone is “living an unhealthy lifestyle” that they must be “unhappy”. When one takes away any moral responsibility to be “healthy” (and there is no moral responsibility on anyone to be so), and are left to live their lives as they so please, people are usually very happy. What makes people unhappy is being told that they’re somehow supposed to be ashamed for not living up to some arbitrary rule of what is “healthy”, whether that be what they eat, what activity they get, or what their body looks like.

    Shame doesn’t make people any healthier, it just makes them miserable about not measuring up to other people’s standards, which in turn makes them more prone to sickness, depression and anxiety.

    Strong self esteem, regardless of body shape, size or ability, is the root of what improves the quality of life, not a drive to be “healthy”.

  • In our community – Tallahassee, FL – they are advertising a lovely seminar….for us fatties. It is, of course, for a doctor to tout the lap band device and why we should and really must have it done for our own sake.

    Their commercial is this woman who says that “it’s time for me to start loving myself!” As if she can’t do that as a fat person.

    I have to tell you, I know a few people who have died from the gastric bypass surgery and several who have regained their weight. It’s not a cure all!

    Tell me, when you remove the lap band, aren’t youj going to be hungried, therefore, eat more and, therefore, gain all your weight back. What a system!

    I saw on the news this morning that there are 2-3 new miraculous diet pills coming out. They are going to combine medications again (remember phen-fen?) – no testing has been done. Get ready for the slew of heart attacks everbody!

    This whole thing pisses me off!

    And this statement: “Eating a well balanced diet made up of fresh ingredients and regular exercise will mean that people will either lose or gain weight depending on their size.”

    This is a load of crap – how many doctors have said “calories in / calories out.” That’s all it takes. They have clearly never had to battle a weight issue – especially a really BIG one!

    Sorry, I am annoyed about all of this and tired of being considered “less than” a “normal-size” person.

    • I find it very hard to consider having myself cut open, invasive procedures done to the digestive system that nature gave me, and then being forced to exist on insanely impractical diets of baby food (after all, that’s all pureed food is, baby food) and tiny spoonfuls considered a “meal” a form of loving myself.

      I also do not consider years of starvation diets, ridiculous detox plans, manic exercise bingeing and rock bottom self esteem “loving myself” either.

  • I couldn’t agree more with you, La. It’s like I was telling my friends recently, about one of Kate Harding’s posts about how she kept telling one of her friends to quit saying “You’re not fat!” because “fat” is simply a descriptor, it’s just that our culture demonizes it to mean “lazy, smelly, useless”, etc. and that we need to seriously stop hating ourselves just because of our body types.

    My stepmom works with this lady who had lap band surgery. She eats total crap and doesn’t exercise thus gained back most of the weight she lost. But there are also plenty of people who eat healthier diets and exercise regularly, and regain the weight or simply can’t lose it.

    So regardless of eating and exercising habits– if HEALTH was really these doctors’ concerns? Then a “solution” to better health wouldn’t be invasively fucking with your digestive tract. It would be breaking down what one eats to discover any hidden food intolerances, and encouraging exercise to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and induce good circulation, not necessarily to lose weight. That’s why those reports and seminars irritate the fuck out of me; it’s so plain to see that these people don’t give two fucks about our health and just want our money– and are just hellbent on making people smaller instead of focusing on actual measures of health.

  • You guys have got to read this article about obesity in America:

    http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2010/

    If there isn’t a link to click on – just copy and paste into your web browser. Apparently, fatties are going to destroy the country! And apparently, the minorities are fatter than white people (not so true for me!).

    Cracked me up the other day…..Michelle Obama was talking about obesity in America – obese children (her pet project) and, when she was through, she went and ate an ice cream sundae!

    I guess only the thin privileged people get to eat treats!

  • I tried to post a link a couple of times to a story here in the U.S. that states that minorities are fatter than the rest of us – I hadn’t noticed that much…I must be outside the study.

    Also, it is really cracking me up that Michelle Obama is trying to tell us all that dessert isn’t a right (her pet project is making sure that the U.S. produces NO MORE fat children!). Then, there’s footage everywhere of her snarfing down brownie sundae’s, cake and pie! She must have a stellar metabolism!

    I am so tired of these people.

    • La I have let those through – I have this blog set up that I have to approve any comments with links in them, it keeps the spam to a minimum for you guys. They should be visible now.

  • Sorry! I jumped the gun. I figured it might be the link. Have a great day and I sure do hope you’re feeling a bit better!

  • I’m in!

    Everytime I’m at work I see the Newsweek cover of Michele Obama touting her no fat kids ideal. I have a habit of hiding it under the Sports Illustrated whenever I get the chance. XD

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