medicine

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Dear Medical Professionals

Published November 9, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well, yet again the amazing Marilyn Wann has inspired me.  She shared this article on her Facebook page and of course I popped over to read it.  It’s an excellent piece on the damage caused by fat stigma and the responsibility the medical profession has towards it’s patients.  I was reading the comments and I was just struck with the desire to tell my story as a fat T2 diabetic to members of the medical profession.  I started to type a comment to the article, and what happened is I found myself writing a letter to medical professionals in general.  I have submitted it as a comment on the site (it’s awaiting moderation over there), but I decided I wanted to copy it and share it with you here.

It is of course nothing we haven’t all been saying in the Fatosphere over and over again, and it’s nothing I personally haven’t said before (repeatedly!), but I believe that we really do need to be telling our stories over and over and over, we do need to be addressing all kinds of different audiences about our experiences and perspectives, if we’re ever going to get real change in our culture towards fat stigmatisation.

So, without rambling on any more, here is my letter to medical professionals (any that care to listen).

Dear Medical Professionals

My name is Kath and I am fat (by the pointless BMI standards, I am morbidly obese at around 300lbs, but I prefer the term fat) AND I have Type 2 diabetes.  I am the one so many in the medical profession use as a cautionary tale against what happens to “bad/lazy/greedy” people who don’t live a “healthy” lifestyle.  Until I found my current doctor, not one health care professional would believe that I was not a sedentary glutton, and as a consequence I developed an eating disorder from about 13 years of age until my early 30’s, and was suicidal during that time as well.  I was starving myself and abusing both prescription weight loss drugs and other substances to try to lose weight.  Medical professionals I went to praised me if I lost weight, but chastised and even bullied me if I gained.  I always gained eventually, always what I had lost, and always some more.  When I confessed disordered behaviour, several health care professionals actually sanctioned it, and encouraged me to continue, since it was “working” (albeit temporarily).   I was rarely asked as to what I was actually eating and what exercise I was doing, but if I was, it was met with disbelief.   After all, calories in, calories out right?  How can one be fat if they are consuming less than they are expending?

In my mid-30’s, I decided that if nobody would believe me, and I couldn’t be thin and therefore worthy of space in this world, I would end it all and relieve myself and the world of suffering.  Thanks to the love of a good friend, I didn’t succeed.  But it was at that moment I opted out.  Opted out of the constant barrage of hatred that is poured towards fat people.  Opted out of dieting and employing any other methods of attempting weight loss.  I didn’t know where I was going at first, I just knew I couldn’t live that way any more, and I wanted to live, but not like I was.

Eventually, I stumbled across the concept of Health at Every Size (HaES) and my world was changed.  First step, find a doctor who listened to me and treated me as a human being, not an amorphous blob of fat to be eradicated, cured, prevented.  Second step, find a decent psychologist to help me heal the trauma of the stigmatisation I lived all my life just for existing in a fat body.  Third step, learn to eat again.  And when I say learn to eat, that means both for nutrition of my body AND for the pleasure food can give.  It means listening to hunger and satiety cues.  It means feeding myself what I need, and what fits within the life I live.  I still struggle with some disordered thinking and behaviour, but I will keep working at it until I have it beaten.  I also reclaimed my right to appear in public as a fat person, which has enabled me to do things like swimming at the beach and riding my bicycle, despite the fact that I am still ridiculed and shamed for daring to be a fat person who is active in public.

It has been about 5 years since the moment I opted out, and in that time I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  I should have known, on my maternal side, my Grandmother is diabetic, on my paternal side, two aunts, an uncle and several of my older cousins (all T2).  I am built like my Grandma and my aunts, as are my female cousins, but the male relatives with diabetes are all tall and thin.  Nobody has ever shamed the men with T2 diabetes in my family, but all of we women have experienced shaming for it.

On diagnosis of T2 diabetes, I became even firmer in my resolve to practice HaES.  Since my diagnosis, my doctor and I have worked together and with HaES and appropriate medication, my blood sugar levels are in the normal range.  I am still fat, but all my vital measures are within the robustly healthy range.

I was far more a drain on society when I was trying to get thin than I am now that I live a HaES lifestyle.  I’ve gone from suicidal, frequently unemployed due to depression and the damage I did with my eating disorder, and constantly needing medical care.  Now I have a successful career in a field that I am passionate about and contributes to society.  I am a passionate campaigner for social justice and inclusion, and I contribute strongly to the public coffers via taxes, my private health care and the work I do in social justice and inclusion.

My point in telling my story here?  “The Obese” are not a disease to be eradicated, prevented, cured.  We are not some disgusting medical condition that is costing society millions.  We do not sit at home on the sofa eating cheeseburgers.  Nor are we stupid or liars.

We are people.  We are human beings with lives, loves, emotions, needs, aspirations and value in society like any other human being.  We deserve to be treated as such and allowed to advocate for ourselves.

Please remember that.

Thank you for your time in reading this.
Kath

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On “Letting Yourself” Get Unhealthy

Published June 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I read this post from Dr Samantha Thomas over at The Discourse and I must say, while I’m absolutely disgusted at the way Amanda Bell has been treated, sadly I am not actually surprised.  Because most of us who live in fat bodies know all too well that respectful, dignified health care is not something we can find easily, and that part of the reason so many of us find ourselves ill is because we avoid going anywhere near medical providers due to the amount of shame and bullying that is heaped on us when we do.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is a chronic illness that comes with a whole host of it’s own shaming, which is compounded when it is suffered by someone who is fat.  I am lucky, I have a GP who is supportive, sympathetic and treats me with respect and dignity.  She also listens to me.  However I was in my 30’s before I found my beloved Doc Jo.  But I dread the thought of needing a specialist of any kind, because it is fresh in my mind the horror of having to deal with fat shaming and the general disrespect of fat-hostile medical professionals (and I use the term “professional” loosely).

But as I have read more and more on the topic of T2 diabetes, all I have found is further fat-shaming from both health care professionals and from every “expert” member of the media and the public who profess to have an opinion on a chronic illness that they neither suffer nor have studied.  The most common message is that T2 diabetics, or to be specific, fat T2 diabetics, have “brought it upon themselves” and are now “clogging up our health care system on something they did to themselves.”  Somehow thin T2 diabetics escape this criticism and are often heaped with sympathy and disbelief on how they should get a disease that the commenter believes is something that only “unhealthy fat people” get.

And just tonight, on Twitter I have had some two-bit television doctor from the UK dismissing me as “being silly” when I tried to speak to him about the disrespect and shaming that fat people suffer at the hands of medical professionals.  Clearly he fails to see that a patronising tone is not an adequate argument.

What I want to talk about today is the commonly held belief that fat people do not deserve respectful, caring medical attention and are unable to advocate for their own health.  Now, let’s pretend, for just a moment, that all the evidence we have found about there being no causal links between fatness and disease, only correlation, and we’ll pretend, just for a moment, that there are no healthy fat people, nor unhealthy thin people, and we’ll even pretend for a moment that 95% of diets and weight loss regimes do not fail over the long term.  So if we ignore all of that evidence, and pretend, just for a moment, that fat really is something that can be controlled and eradicated by diet and exercise.

Let’s just pretend for a minute (bear with me).

If that’s the case, wouldn’t that mean that EVERYBODY who engages in risky behaviour or does things that are detrimental to their own health should be shamed, bullied, intervened into and vilified for their behaviours?  Wouldn’t that mean that ANYONE who is not in 100% tip-top physical form through some kind of activity or behaviour that may possibly do damage to the human body should be held fully financially responsible (without any support from private or public health care) for their illnesses and injuries?

Let’s think about that.

Do you tan/sunbathe/expose ANY of your skin to the sun?  Well, that counts you out for respectful health care, because you’ve let yourself get skin cancer.  Do you drink alcohol?  No respectful health care for you, if you let yourself get cirrhosis, stomach ulcers or alcohol related illnesses.  How about anyone who plays sport?  If you let yourself get injured on the field/course/track/court – no respectful health care for you.  Have you ever had sexual intercourse in your life? Well if you get any of the long list of illnesses and diseases that can be contracted from just one sexual encounter, then it’s your fault, you are also exempt from respectful health care.  Do you drive a car?   If you have an accident, you let it happen, so off the list you go too.  Take public transport to commute to and from work?  Well, if the bus has an accident, or you get the flu from other people on your train – you let that happen by engaging in behaviour that has risks, so you’re off the list there.  Choose to get pregnant?  Well, all those things that can happen during pregnancy and childbirth – you let those happen by exposing yourself to that risk, so nope, no respectful health care for you either.

We could go on like this for ever.  Because every single action we do in our lives, can and does have health risks.  Not to mention that we humans do a lot of very stupid things to ourselves and end up sick or injured because of it.  We drive big metal and glass vehicles at high speeds, we perch atop small things with wheels on them and hurtle along roads, down hills and around car-parks in the name of fun or transport.  We hurl balls, sticks, spears, discs and other projectiles at each other in the name of sport.  We jump out of planes, strap huge cans of air to our backs and dive to the bottom of the ocean with big creatures that have teeth that and see us as food, we go places where there are things that can bite, sting, spear and poison us.  We have sex with all kinds of people and things, we use mind-altering substances and we engage in all kinds of purely cosmetic procedures that can go wrong.  In the name of entertainment, pleasure or convenience, we do hundreds of things that are not entirely necessary, and carry risks to our health.

Such is life.  Simply being conceived, gestated and born is the riskiest thing any human being can do – all the stuff afterwards is just the icing on the risk cake.

So why is it that fatness is singled out?  Why is it that there is this general perception that fat people aren’t capable of making informed, conscious choices about our own lives and the risks associated?  Why is it believed that we need to be shamed for our own good?

Because it’s not about health.  It has never been about health.  It is about appearance and moral superiority.  A fat person offends the eye of a fat hater (and fat hatred is encouraged in our society), so they need to be shamed and bullied until they are either thin, or hidden away where the fat hater cannot see them.  Or better still, eradicated.  And our culture encourages people to feel moral superiority over others, so as we are encouraged to hate fat, who better to claim moral superiority over to make ourselves feel better than the fatties?

Yet so many people still can’t understand why fat people avoid going to the doctor…

The Lazy Diagnosis

Published April 21, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I want to talk about death threats against fat people today.  Not literal ones, like “I’m going to kill you!”, which we do receive sometimes, particularly if we commit the “crime” of being publicly and unashamedly fat.  But the more subtle ones.  Brian over at Red No. 3 wrote about them a while back, in his post “A Culture of Death Threats“.

It’s the kind of message that fat people hear every day.  The message that boils down to “You’re going to die, fatty!!”  All those times you hear “But don’t you know being fat is unhealthy??” and “You’re going to get diabetes/high cholesterol/heart disease/bowel cancer/etc.” right through to the ridiculousness of “Your fat is crushing your bones!  Your organs are going to liquify into fat!  Obesity destroys your immune system!”

We, fat people, hear those messages every day.  From sources near and far – friends and family, the diet industry, mainstream media, the government, strangers on the street, and indeed, from many health care professionals.

As Brian says in his post, this is a method of control, trying to get us to do as we are told.  We must diet, punish ourselves, be invisible, feel shame, loathe our fat bodies.  Be a good fatty and do whatever we can to stop being fat.

However, something else happens too.  Even if we opt out of the societal norm of loathing and shame for fat bodies, something happens to us that even the most deeply entrenched fat activist can be susceptible to.  We begin to fear our fat bodies.   We stop listening to them as part of ourselves, and see them as the enemy, something to be feared and fought, other than/outside ourselves.

It happened to me this week.

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before that I suffer from anxiety.  Some of it is genetic (most of my family on both sides have some form of anxiety issues) and some of it is a result of PTSD.  Of course, my anxiety has been blamed on my fatness too, but I have thin relatives who also suffer it, and that never gets acknowledged.

Most of the time, it’s well managed these days.  I recognise many of the triggers, I see the warning signs, and I have learned the skills to mitigate most bouts.  But sometimes it blindsides me, and then it’s very difficult to work through it, even with the recognition and skills I have learned.

So I got a cold a couple of weeks ago.  It swept through my office like a brush fire, and as I had a nice open tattoo wound at the time, I could hardly avoid it.  My doctor (who is awesome and I am very lucky to have found) and I have noticed this phenomena of me getting a cold every time I have a fresh tattoo – otherwise I hardly get the bugs that go around.  I had a pretty full on cough, got a rather interesting husky voice for a couple of weeks, felt a bit run down and tired, but wasn’t that bad so I didn’t have any time off work though many of my colleagues who got the same lurgy did.

However this week, I noticed a pain in the left side my chest.*

And every voice that ever told me that I was going to die because I’m a disgusting fatty, fat, fat came flooding back to me.  Every concern troll, every narrowminded bigot, every doctor who didn’t bother to examine me and just looked at my fat body and made a diagnosis, every arsehole on the street who told me I would die because of my fatness was suddenly back in my head, telling me that my fatness was going to give me a heart attack and I would die.  I was hearing those old recordings in my mind, and I was afraid.

It was stupid.  But it happens, even now.  Because the relentlessness of those messages, that are literally inescapable, means that even though I’m consciously rejecting them, they still get through from time to time, when I’m not feeling at my strongest.

This is what we’re up against in our culture.  Relentless messages that tell us, regardless of any actual facts about our personal situations, that we’re going to die, and it will be all the fault of our fatness.  People who are not fat, or who can pass as not fat, don’t have to constantly brace themselves against that avalanche of negativity every day.  But those of us who have unhideable bodies, bodies that can never pass as “not fat”, are subjected to it, everywhere.  Dozens and dozens of variations of that same basic message, “Fear your fat body.”

The thing is, having that kind of constant threat of death spouted at us is what makes many of us sick, not the fatness of our bodies.  Having that much negativity, shame and loathing constantly thrown at you has got to wear at times.  It’s the nocebo effect – where those messages are so deeply ingrained, that we start to believe that we are going to get sick, that we are going to die and that message is so powerful that we actually DO get sick.

But it’s still our fault.  Because we’re fat, and being fat means that you caused all bad things that have happened to you.

Of course, we are then accused of being “weak” when those messages weigh too heavily on our shoulders.  When the constant call to fear our own bodies actually filters through, and we succumb to that fear.  If we admit anxiety or stress, then it is somehow our fault, and we’re to blame for that as well.   If we go to the doctor, we’re often told that we’re hypochondriacs, or that we’re being overly dramatic, if we would just go and lose weight this wouldn’t happen.  Our anxiety and stress is dismissed as whinging or attention seeking, with no question as to what is causing such anxiety and stress.  We are tossed out the door yet again, with “lose weight” as the cure for all that ails us.

So what do so many of us do?  We ignore the REAL messages our bodies try to send us.  When we feel pain, we avoid going to the doctor, because we’ll only be told that we’re weak, that we should just lose weight and the problem will go away.  We won’t get a real diagnosis, they won’t care how we feel.  We’ll just be shamed and sent packing with instrutions to eat less and exercise more.

Is this ever factored into “studies” into mortality and health of fat people?  Is it ever acknowledged by those supposedly researching into issues around obesity that the very culture we live in is a) making fat people sick and b) preventing us from getting adequate health care when we do get sick?

It strikes me that the lazy ones aren’t those of us who are fat.  It’s those who don’t bother to actually listen, and investigate the health of individual fat people on a case by case basis.  It’s those who take one look at our fatness and diagnose every ailment we have as “obesity”, merely on sight.  It’s those who don’t ask WHY there may be evidence towards fat people having health issues and just assume that fat is always to blame.

Wouldn’t you say that’s pretty hypocritical?  I know I would.

*It’s ok, the pains in my chest turned out to be pulled muscles in my ribcage due to coughing with that damn cold.

But You’re Gonna DIE!!

Published December 27, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve had another concern troll.  You know the usual schtick, the whole “But you’re gonna DIE!” type.  I was reading Ragen’s post over at Dances with Fat on the Vague Future Health Threat (herein referred to as VFHT) and I thought I’d talk a bit about the subject myself.  I think I’ll write a letter.

Dear concern trolls, fat hating medicos, my family and friends, other people’s families and friends, colleagues and random douchebags on the street…

We are ALL going to die.

Yep, one day, we’re all going to reach the end of our lives, and we’re going to die.  Maybe that will be because we got sick with diabetes, or heart disease, or hypertension, or any other of the diseases that you claim “obesity” is the root cause of.  Maybe it will be an accident that takes us.  Maybe we’ll just grow very old and our bodies will stop working and it will be our time to go.  Or perhaps we’ll get cancer.  No matter what the cause of death is, we all have that one thing in common.  We are alive now, and one day, we’re going to die.  Whether we’re fat, thin or somewhere in the middle.

Yes, yes, I know, you say that it’s all about preventing an EARLY death.  Here’s the thing.  I knew this girl.  She was beautiful and took really good care of herself.  She never smoked, never touched alcohol, went to church, worked hard, and did everything you’re supposed to do to be healthy and live a long life.  She was slim and ate well and exercised.  Then at 24 she developed a kind of cancer that is associated with smoking.  Strangely enough, she never once smoked anything.  She died at 26.

I also knew a man, who played sport several times per week, ate healthy, didn’t smoke and only liked a beer or wine or two with friends from time to time.  He loved his family and was kind to everyone.  He died at 49 of melanoma.

Oh it’s about quality of life you say?  Because everyone knows fat people have bad hips and knees, huff and puff going up and down stairs and all that stuff.  Some do, sure.  But don’t assume all do.  Besides, if you care so much about quality of life, how about not bullying people with fat shaming?  How about accepting people as they are, and encouraging them to live their lives to the fullest right here and now, which in turn will enable them to do things like eat well, and be active?  If you’re so fired up about quality of life, you’d be making sure that fat people were happy as well as healthy.

See when I was 12, I went to the doctor with terrible period pain.  He told me that if I didn’t lose the weight before I was 13, my periods would stop and I’d never have a proper puberty.  I didn’t lose the weight.  My periods didn’t stop and puberty came along as it should have.

When I was 16, I went to the same doctor with more terrible period pain, as well as some other menstrual issues.  He told me that if I didn’t lose the weight by the time I was 18, I’d have diabetes.  I didn’t lose the weight.  I’m 38 and still don’t have diabetes, or even pre-diabetes.

When I was 19, I went to a new doctor with debilitating menstrual issues (see a pattern here?) and he told me that I should go away and lose weight, find myself a boyfriend and have a baby.   Good advice for someone in pain who has bled for 18 months huh?

When I was 21, I went to a doctor with a skin problem.  He told me to lose weight and they’d go away.  I went to another doctor, and he made them go away without me losing a pound.

When I was 25, I went to another doctor because my periods had stopped.  He told me that it was because I was fat, and if I didn’t lose the weight by the time I was 30, I’d get diabetes and my knees would give away.  I lost the weight, then gained it again, then lost it again, then gained it again… all I got for that was bad teeth, a whole lot of stretchmarks and the continuation of a very long term eating disorder.  No diabetes or bad knees.

When I was 30, I went to a doctor with menstrual troubles again (see the pattern here?) and she told me that if I didn’t lose the weight, I’d never have babies, I’d get diabetes and have a heart attack before I was 35.  She told me that my depression would go away, my periods would come back regular (and be pain free) and I wouldn’t have any more acne.  She gave me lots of different types of weight loss drugs and treatments to try.  I did lose the weight.  A LOT of weight.  What I got was more depression, my period disappeared altogether, my skin got worse and I tried to kill myself repeatedly.

I gained the weight back.  I went to a doctor who came highly recommended.  I was 32.  She diagnosed me with PCOS.  Over the past 6 years we’ve been working through my health together.  We tried a lot of things, worked out what was best for me, and went with it.  I am now strong and healthy and emotionally happy.  We have figured out the PCOS stuff and all of that is working well for me.  My weight is only a factor when it comes to dosage.  I’m 38 and I still haven’t developed the diabetes (or even pre-diabetes) that has been predicted for me since I was a teenager.  My vital signs are all fabulous.   I am full of energy and life is good.  My doctor is happy with my health.  Should that change, then my doctor and I will assess things again.

The thing is, you don’t know my body.  You don’t know anyone’s body except your own.  You’re not really concerned about my health, because you don’t know what my health is.  You just don’t like looking at fat people.  But you think by camouflaging your fat loathing with concern for health, you can pass comment, or make judgement.  You can’t.

You worry about your health.  I’ll look after mine.

Regards

Fat Heffalump

P.S.  Here’s a special image for you all:

Photobucket

An Open Letter to Professionals

Published July 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Dear journalists and other media agents, medical and health professionals, government organisations, researchers, academics and other relevant professionals,

I am writing to you to request politely but firmly, for the last time, for you to cease referring to fat people as “the obese”.

“The obese” that you refer to are not alien beings sent down from the planet Lardo.  They are not animals that have tried to assimilate with humanity.  They are not creatures from the black lagoon, nor are they any other kind of hideous monster you can dream up.  They are also not in any way less, sub, below, beneath or beyond yourself or any other human being.

“The obese” that you refer to, are people.  They are human beings who simply have more fat on their bodies than other human beings.

They are people with lives, families, jobs, responsibilities, intellect, humour, worries, friends, problems and feelings just like any other people.

When you refer to them, no us, as “the obese”, you dehumanise us.  You reduce us to some kind of “other” that isn’t of equal value to the rest of humanity.  You reduce us to a thing, rather than a person.

You don’t refer to thin people as “the thin”.  You don’t refer to tall people as “the tall”.  It is only those you wish to look down upon that are reduced to a “the”.  You know you’re not allowed to do it to people of colour any more, or people with disabilities, or people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  You all pretty much stopped doing that in your newspaper articles and medical papers and such some time ago.  At least publicly anyway, because you know there will be trouble if you do.

Now I know you need to have some kind of official term to use in your work.  The word obese is problematic, but if you really must use it, then how about referring to us as “obese people” or if you want to see obesity as a health condition, you could even use “people who suffer obesity”.  Neither of which really sit well with me personally, but at least those terms don’t dehumanise us.

However, you may call us fat people.  Because, well, that’s what we are.  We are people who are fat.  Like referring to young people or tall people or Australian people – fat people is just a factually descriptive term.

But hear me now.  You must stop referring to us as “the obese”.  Stop reducing us to our body type, and start remembering that we do have power and influence.  We have money to spend, votes to cast, voices to speak, brains to think and plenty of friends and family influence.

You could have access to all of this if you only remembered that we do have it.  Some of your colleagues are, and they’re already reaping the rewards.

Yours sincerely

A fat person.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Published June 1, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ok lovely fatties…

Ever kept a food diary for a doctor?  What about an exercise journal?  Been asked by a health care professional of some kind about your eating habits and exercise routines?  What about at a gym, or by a personal trainer?  Have you ever been questioned by one of those about your diet and exercise?  Have you ever been to a dietician?  Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Tony Ferguson or any other diet company?

Pretty much most of you right?

Now, how many of you have been called a liar by any of the above?

I know I have.  I’ve handed over food diaries and been asked if that was all of it, like a naughty school child being asked to hand over all of the cookies they stole.  I’ve had “Did you add your snacks to this?”  and “Now are you being totally honest Kath?”  I’ve been asked “What did you have for dessert?” when I had written nothing because I had not had anything.

Then there are the lectures.  Regardless of what you put in your food or exercise diary, you still get the lecture about calories in vs calories out, not “cheating”, grilled about how much exercise you are doing and told that “you have to put more effort into this.”

The only time I ever lied to a doctor about what I was eating and how much exercise I was doing was to ADD food to the diary because I was living off grapefruit juice and broccoli in vinegar, and to REDUCE the amount of exercise I wrote because I was spending 4 – 6 hours exercising, and I knew they wouldn’t believe me if I wrote the truth.  I did however lie regularly about making myself vomit whatever I ate.

I never once lied about eating more food than I put in the diary, nor did I lie about doing exercise that I hadn’t done.

What I ask, is why is it so common for health care professionals, the diet and exercise industry and the like to not believe fat people when they give information about their diet and exercise?  Why is it immediately assumed that a fat person MUST be lying if their food intake is normal/moderate/low and their activity levels are normal/moderate/high?

I don’t know about you, but when I think back on the number of times I was either outright accused of lying about my diet and activity, or lectured like a naughty schoolchild, I get really angry.

Recently I heard of a GP commenting on fat people with:

“They’re like men who beat their wives, or alcoholics, in denial.”

I don’t have any words for attitudes like this.  I always believed that doctors are meant to have compassion for their patients, that they have a duty of care to treat people with respect and without prejudice.  Many of you may have seen or heard about studies of doctors and their attitudes towards obesity (another) and it’s not looking good.  More than 50% of physicians viewed obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant.  And this is without any factor towards our levels of health, our medical history, or the information we may give them about our diet and activity.

One of the reasons I’m really thrilled to be able to present at the Australian Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue Conference is that for the first time in my knowledge, fat people are being asked to give their perspective on “the obesity epidemic” to academia.  Instead of being headless fatties, statistics or “awkward, unattractive, ugly or non-compliant” patients, we’re given names, faces and voices.

If you can go, please do so.  The more allies we have there to be heard, the louder the message will get across.

But… but… your health?

Published May 29, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I came across this vintage ad on Tumblr:

Lucky Strike

Pretty full on isn’t it?  Back in the 20’s/30’s/40’s (and indeed since), smoking was endorsed as a method of keeping thin, or getting thin.

It wasn’t just for the ladies either:

Lucky Strike Man

We of course now know just how damaging to our health smoking is, and that it’s “benefits” for weight loss are most certainly not going to outweigh the damage it does to our health.  However back in the day, cigarette advertising was peppered with endorsements from doctors and “scientific studies”.  Face the facts, as the above ad says.

Lady Doctor

Science

Even the dentist jumped in on the game:

Dentists too

But what about things that are endorsed now, even by the medical profession, as life saving ways to lose that weight that is killing you?  Diet drugs, shakes, replacement meals and snacks, herbal “remedies” and other potions, lotions, pills and powders.  We’re told they’re safe ways to lose weight, but we’ve already seen some ripped off the market because of deaths, and one look at the ingredient list of any of the non-prescription items will raise a whole pile of questions about what the hell that stuff is.

I myself was put on prescription speed to suppress my supposedly voracious appetite so that I would lose weight (with no heed paid to the fact that I actually wasn’t eating enough).  There’s a whole blog post in that little episode.

Let’s not even get started on weight loss surgery.  Then there’s the simpler ideas of removing whole food groups, or only existing on one type of food, while adding manic exercising into the mix.  All of this is supposedly for the health of fat patients.

Of course, a lot of the advertising campaigns of the past were pseudoscience, and carefully worded and crafted interpretations of what the medical profession had to day.  But is current media and marketing any different?  Have you heard the list of side effects and “results not typical” in a standard American drug advertisement, put there to prevent consumers from suing the arse off these companies?  How much of what is presented to us as science and fact right now is spin?

But we buy it.  So do a lot of everyday members of the medical profession.

How many more of these things have to come out as deadly or dangerous before we stop focusing on using extreme methods to lose weight, and focusing on general health, regardless of body size.  If “science” and “facts” were wrong about smoking, who’s to say it isn’t also wrong about all of the extreme methods of losing weight that are sold to us today?

Personally, I don’t believe it’s all about the health of fat patients one iota.  I believe it’s a moral panic around obesity, and that it’s purely about disgust and repulsion for the fat body.  A disgust so vicious that many in the medical profession would rather put fat people at risk of disease, disability and death to possibly get that weight off, than just focus on getting their patients feeling good and improving their health.  Fat has been so vilified that it has become standard practice to get fat patients to lose weight no matter what it does to their physical health, their self esteem, their emotional health.

Getting thin  has become more important than getting healthy.  Losing weight has become more important than just eating a balanced diet and being active.

Not to mention that someone out there is making lots, and lots, and lots of money from getting fat people to buy all of this crap.

Makes you think back to these ads again doesn’t it?

Slender

No one can deny huh?  Would that be just like no one can deny that being fat is bad for your health?