OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis

All posts in the OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis category

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


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?


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

Link Love – May 2010

Published May 25, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ugh, I’ve been sick with a head cold for the past three or four days, so blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  I do have some things I want to talk about, but I’m not at my most articulate right now, so I think I’ll just have a little bit of a link roundup for you all of interesting stuff I’ve found around the traps on body image, fat acceptance, positive living et al.  I’ve posted most of these on the Fat Heffalump Facebook Page.

I’d like to do this once or twice a month to share some of the fab stuff I find.

Ok, let’s have a looky at what we’ve got here:

On health/diets/weight loss:

Dances with Fat talks about things people do on their doctor’s advice to lose weight.

Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size has some great excerpts from her book.

A thought provoking piece from Feminist Fatale on the dangerous lengths that people will go to to lose weight.

On the “Obesity Epidemic”:

Big Liberty talks about how the “Obesity Epidemic” is a moral panic.

On Fatshion:

Over on I Love Fatshion I talk about what Fatshion means to me.

I fell in love with this dress from iGiGi (but can’t have it cos I’m broke!)

Other fab fat acceptance:

On Spilt Milk, a fantastic piece on bullying.

Over on Oh the Places You’ll Go we see a showcase of, and interview with the stunning Teer Wayde, pinup and plus-size model.

I just want to give some link love to the wonderful Barbara over at Fat in a Free Country who is relatively new to fat acceptance but is doing a fabulous job.

So there’s a healthy portion (see what I did there?) of some of the things I’ve found fabulous and interesting around the traps over the past week.

Feel free to share something you’ve found in the comments below.

Not Beaten by the Blunt Instrument

Published February 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well!  What an afternoon.  Normally I don’t blog about other blogs, cos it’s kinda redundant usually, I think it’s better to just  not read them any more if they piss me off or I disagree.  But this one has mentioned me personally, and is about a conversation I have been having with it’s author, so I think I’m going to break tradition.

Now, let’s get one thing straight.  Author John Birmingham, who’s original tweet I challenged, and who is the author of the blog post I’m talking about here, has apologised for his original tweet, which I admire anyone who can apologise for something said hastily.  It takes a person with grace and dignity to do that.  I also admire JB as an writer (his books make me pee laughing) and quite often he hits the nail right on the head with a blog topic on his rather cool blog Blunt Instrument.  He has also been respectful and polite to me personally during this whole discussion/debate.

So I would like anyone reading this to take a moment before getting stuck into JB, remember, we’re all adults and can have a discussion without getting disrespectful or nasty.

Ok, so, what I’m going to talk about here is JB’s attitude (and many others with him) towards fat people.  In particular, a few quotes from his blog and response comments to me.  (Note: I haven’t read the blog comments on his post except those between him and myself, too high a risk of douchebaggery and I don’t need that shit.)

And I’m not discussing here that JB doesn’t believe in fat acceptance or Health at Every Size (HAES) – that’s for another blog post – and he’s entitled to disagree.  It’s a little deeper than that.

Let’s start with these comments in response to my asking him to keep the “fat hate” to himself regarding his comment on this tweet.

I have been morbidly obese. It nearly killed me.

my morbid obesity was entirely my own fault

Ok, so JB believes his obesity was his own fault, and he’s been able to lose weight so he is no longer morbidly obese.  That’s fair enough, and I believe he has been very fortunate to be able to do that.  When I challenged him that he would be in the vast minority of morbidly obese people (actually overweight and obese people too) who could actually achieve that, he responded with:

I’d dispute that 5% my understanding – & I did lots research b4 embarking on weight loss- is that 30% simply can’t lose weight…

So this is where I wasn’t happy.  Because he’s instantly assumed that because I haven’t been able to stop being morbidly obese, that I haven’t done lots of research.  Which kinda tells me that he assumes NO Fatty McFattersons have ever done lots of research either.

On the simple assumption, that because I am a fat person who is staying fat, and doesn’t believe that I can stop being fat, I must by default be lazy/unintelligent/uninspired and have never done any research of my own.  Let alone “lots”.

It really is falling into the whole Wooo!  I lost weight and you can too!!* malarkey.

*If you just stop being lazy and gluttonous.

Now to be honest, I don’t think JB is being blatantly discriminatory and prejudiced.  But it shows to me the deep seated belief in our culture that fat = bad, and that fat people are somehow less than non-fat people.  Subconsciously at least, JB believes this.  Because in his comments on his blog, he actually says:

You are not differently-abled when carrying around excess weight. You are disabled. I’ve carried enough to know.

Now I’m really getting offended.  You know MY body do you JB?  You  know how I live my life, how able I am in my life, and what my body can and can’t do?  You know what I could do with my body before I was fat, and what I can do with it now that I’m a very fat person do you?

See this is what drives me nuts and gets up my arse.  The assumption, on looking at a fat person, that you can sum them up and know what’s best for them, how they live and what is right and wrong for them.  The equation of not being fat to being morally superior.

He concludes his response to my comment with:

Kath, I am living a completely different life. A better life.

That’s bloody fabulous JB!  Good on you!  But you’re assuming that your life is somehow better than mine (and any other fatty boombahs) because you are not fat and I am fat.  You’re assuming that as a fat person, I’m living this horrible disabled, lazy, idle life of misery.

Well, contrary to what we’re sold in shitty TV reality series hauling out the crying fatties to compete, nay, perform like monkeys for money prizes, pap magazines full of celebrities announcing how miserable they were while they were fat (while accepting nice fat endorsement cheques from Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and the like), and newspapers whoring themselves over “BOOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-CRISIS!” and so on, fat people aren’t pathetic or miserable because of our fat.

Fat people suffer because of non-fat people.  Fat people suffer because of self-hating fat people.  Fat people suffer because our culture judges us on sight alone, without ever knowing anything about us.  And when we stop accepting the world treating us like that, when we stand up and say “I will not accept anything less than respect and dignity, and fair treatment.” then the suffering goes away.  The shit doesn’t stop from the outside world, but it does stop hurting.

When we stop hating ourselves, and start realising that perhaps the rest of the world is not the best authority on OUR bodies, but WE are, then the suffering eases.

I’d love to have a coffee with JB.  Skim latte please, full cream milk makes me fart.  I’d love him to meet me “in the flesh” (I’ve got lots of it!) and to just ask himself after meeting and talking to me if he still thinks of me as disabled or morbid or broken or in any way less than any other human being.

I’ll leave you with my final comment to JB in his blog comments:

My life completely changed too. A far better life, a far happier life, a far healthier life, a far, far more productive life. It changed when I stopped accepting the bullshit that my body is “disabled” or less worthy than someone who is not fat.

*Please note: I am deleting any comments from those who clearly didn’t read what I have said in this post and are pulling the old “But you Fatty McFattersons are in DENIAL!” and “But I’m fat and I’m going to get thin because I might die!”   Please go back and read this post and what I have said again carefully, and then you’re welcome to comment on that.

Australian Fatties – Here is Your Opportunity

Published October 25, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

With thanks to Fat-o-matic I have been introduced to the new initiative by the Australian Government yourHealth.  It is an initiative on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing to give Australians a voice on their health care.  I’m not sure how much they’re actually planning to listen to it, but needless to say, it’s a very good idea to get on board and actually have a say.

I believe that we need as many Australians from the fatosphere to get on board and speak up about our health.  We are entitled to a voice as much as any other Australian, and it’s important that we speak up right now that we have this opportunity.

In particular, there is a blog post over there called How should governments, industry and community groups work together to help us combat obesity? Personally, I don’t believe obesity needs to be combatted.  Fat does not need to be fought, like it is some kind of enemy.  But it’s very important that we take the time to go to this blog and in a clear, open, and rational manner, have our say with regards to our  health.  Because this whole subject of “combatting obesity” is talking about our health, not everyone else in Australia.  We’ve been asking for our voices to be heard, we’ve been looking to change people’s perceptions of weight and health, so let’s not waste this opportunity to do so.

If you are Australian and you are reading this, please click on the link to yourHealth and go and register.  It does require an email verification, but it’s pretty straight forward.  Then click on the link above to the post about combatting obesity, and go and leave your comment there.  You can leave up to 5000 words, which is plenty to articulate why it is important for the concept of health to be independent of weight and body shape/size.

It’s a good chance to share the concept of Health at Any Size and combat that whole OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis mentality.

Let’s not let this opportunity slide by.

Shame on You…

Published October 15, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

I bet most of you have experienced this one:

You’re in a doctor’s office. You have a cold, or you’ve hurt yourself somehow, or perhaps you’ve got a rash. You tell the doctor about the owie or the icky, and he/she shakes her head and says in a stern, disapproving tone “Well, you do need to lose some weight, don’t you?”

Or what about this one:

You’re in a public place, say a restaurant or food court of a shopping centre. You’re having lunch, nothing special, just lunch. Someone passing by or at the nearest table says “Look at that fat pig. People like that shouldn’t eat, that’s disgusting.”

Maybe this one:

You’re watching the news. The newsreader comes on with an article about how fat people are costing the public health system lots and lots of money. Whoever you’re with turns to you and says “Don’t you ever feel guilty about that?”

Ever experienced anything like these situations? If you’re fat, I’m pretty sure you have, or something similar. These are all examples of fat shaming.
Fat shaming is a tactic that non-fats, the medical profession and the media have all been using for a long time. Because they all figure that if we’re ashamed of ourselves as fatties, that we will go on diets and lose the weight and then we’ll no longer have an OOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-EPIDEMIC.
Here’s the thing. Fat shaming has been a tactic for a very, very long time. I’ve had it directed at me since I can remember, which is long before I was actually fat. Once I actually got fat, it was ramped up even higher. So if I can remember it from the 70’s, that means it’s been going on for over 30 years right?
Actually, I’ve seen examples of fat shaming in vintage ads from the 50’s. You know, the “Sally can’t get a date because she’s a big fat lardass.” kind of thing.
So if fat shaming has been out there for more than 50 years, and we’ve got a “growing OOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-CRISIS” these days, as the media will have you believe, does this not tell us that fat shaming actually makes the problem worse?

When I look at it, it tells me that fat shaming does a whole bunch of things. It makes fat people embarrassed or intimidated about going to the doctor to get decent health care, which would lessen their risk of being of high cost to public health. It causes fat people to avoid being active in public because of the fear of ridicule that they not only “might” suffer, but actually do suffer. It forces many women and girls into the cycle of eating disorders and exercise obsessions that are a) not sustainable and b) do more long term damage to bodies than they do any good. It causes high levels of stress in fat people so that they are at more risk to things like high blood pressure and heart disease.
And these are just a few off the top of my head.
If fat shaming actually worked, wouldn’t we be finding that the rate of obesity in western culture was actually lower now than it used to be, because we’ve been sold the same line for a good 30+ years now? Surely if fat shaming was effective, the obesity rate would be decreasing, rather than increasing.
So here’s the thing. It’s a crock of shit. If you hear doctors, the media, and the general public (which includes your family, friends and colleagues) using fat shaming to try to guilt you/anyone/society in general into somehow miraculously making yourself thin, question it.
That goes for you too non-fatties who might be reading this blog.
Ask the questions about why they do it. Are they doing it because it is known that it actually works, or are they doing it because a) it’s so ingrained in our culture that fat people should be ashamed of themselves that it’s just what’s done, or b) because they’re projecting their own fear of being fat and self loathing onto the people who represent the things they are afraid of/most loathe about themselves?
If you’re a fatty that is on the receiving end of some fat shaming, maybe it’s worth thinking about the damage that actually accepting and carrying that shame is doing to you. Maybe it’s time to refuse to accept and carry that shame.
The little trick I’ve found is to think of that fat shame as a big steaming pile of shit. And don’t pick it up if it’s offered to you! When I am handed a stinky pile of fat shame shit, I think to myself “Ummm… that’s YOUR fat shame shit, not mine, I’m not going to carry it, thank you very much.” Where it’s possible, I challenge it to the person trying to hand it to me, but sometimes it’s not possible, so I just raise my chin a little, think to myself “No thanks” and move on, be it literally or figuratively.
Fat shame is pointless and there is no reason you have to accept it. It’s not even going to help you if you did.

When Lady Journalists Attack

Published September 8, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

Well, have I got something for you tonight! This article was published in the Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia) today with the dramatic title of “Plus-size Models Doing Big Girls No Favour”.

In it, the author, Susie O’Brien suggests that the increase in plus-size models in the fashion market are not a good idea because it gives the impression that it’s ok to be fat. She also criticises television shows like Drop Dead Diva and the fact that retailers are starting to provide fashionable clothing for plus-sized women. To quote her directly:’

But there are also many larger people who are just plain fat, and who would be better off being encouraged to lose weight rather than always be told it’s ok to be overweight.

Now firstly, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never experienced being “always told it’s ok to be overweight”. ALWAYS told that Ms O’Brien? I am wondering where you got that idea. Perhaps it was the people on the street who yell encouragingly at fat women “Go for it sister!! Rock that hot fat body you sexy thing!” Or the constant news pieces about how AWESOME it is that there is an obesity crisis going on in our country. Maybe it’s those doctors that tell us that our wonderful fat bodies protect us from disease and illness?
Oh hang on… that’s in the reverse universe! Silly me. *eyeroll* Ms O’Brien dear, back to this universe hmmm?
She then goes on to say:

But it’s time to get real – fat people may be happier but they’re also digging their graves with a fork, and we’re all paying for it.

Firstly, last time I looked I was a tax payer, in fact a taxpayer that has one of the highest quotas in relation to my income, because as a single, woman without children who works full time, and has private health cover, I’m not collecting anywhere from the Government for the tax I pay. So am I not entitled to a piece of my tax dollar coming back to me? Fat people pay tax too y’know Ms O’Brien.
And secondly, here we go again, the old fat people shame trick. All of us fatty pigs that are going to die and make the rest of “normal society” pay their hard earned dollars for us to be happy and fat.
Now, they didn’t publish my comment that I left on this article, probably because it makes sense, but what I asked is this – If shaming and pressuring people into thinness actually worked to make the “obesity crisis” go away, wouldn’t we have seen evidence of this by now? After all, Westerners have been heavy into the diet thing for some decades now. I know that my Grandmother has been dieting and felt shame about her weight all my life, and as you know I’m past 35. I daresay she was doing so before I was born. It was really the 50’s and 60’s that saw the diet/body obsession culture kick off, and then it kind of went nuclear in the 80’s. So if all these decades of shame and body obsession and thin = beauty actually worked, wouldn’t the levels of obesity in our culture be decreasing, not increasing? Wouldn’t the average be smaller than in the past, than larger?
Perhaps, just perhaps, by empowering people with confidence, strong self esteem, and a sense of achievement and a place in society, they’re more likely to be productive, healthy members of that society? They’re more likely to have the confidence to take on a productive role in society, to be active and willing participants in life rather than shutting themselves away in shame and embarrassment.
I certainly think so.
But what I think sums up Ms O’Brien perfectly is this sentence.

Losing weight is hard work. It takes sacrifice and effort. As a mother of three in my late 30’s with a new gym membership, I know this first-hand.

I think I understand. Perhaps Ms O’Brien doesn’t like her own body. If she doesn’t like her own body, how dare anyone that she considers fatter than her like theirs? Everyone should put in all that sacrifice and effort that she is. Let alone all that money she spent on her fancy gym membership. Perhaps if Ms O’Brien stopped worrying about how everyone else is living their lives, and focused on letting go of her own body issues, she might realise that it’s none of her business.