Fat phobia, the diet industry, and corporate greed

Categories: Reflections

Everywhere we turn, we’re bombarded with messages about our bodies: thin is in, and we’re expected to either be thin or aspire to be thin. The main stream media is obsessed with our (current or potential) fatness. We’re warned about all the health problems supposedly caused by obesity: diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Obviously, thin people never get these illnesses. Obviously, if a thin person DOES get these illnesses, they are not at fault, and deserve the best of the best healthcare available. If a fat person gets these illnesses, they should be shamed and told to lose weight, suspending standard treatment protocols used for thin people. Sound bites from MSM outlets quote research, but the sound bites are so far removed from the reality of the actual research, we don’t actually learn anything from them, and we’ll NEVER learn how much of that research is actually funded by the $60 billion diet industry. (Hint: most of it.)

We need to take weight out of the equation, and talk HEALTH (and healthcare) for EVERYONE. The criteria for defining a person as overweight is far from scientific. Body Mass Index (BMI) has been known by researchers to be complete bunk for a long time, and even when people say “well yeah, BMI isn’t that good, but fat is bad!” there’s no defined line between “fat” and “thin.” It’s like pornography: We can’t define it, but we know it when they see it. By our current (BMI) standards, a whopping two thirds of the population is overweight (logic check: over WHAT weight?) so of course it’s going to look like we’ve got some “epidemic” of fatness.

When you look at the numbers, it’s been shown that there are more fat poor people than fat rich people. There are more fat black people than fat white people, and we already know there are more poor black people than poor white people. These groups already have less access to healthcare, and the healthcare they do get is more likely to be tainted by racial, socioeconomic, and size bias (among plenty of other biases experienced in the exam room). People are going to procrastinate getting seemingly minor symptoms examined by a doctor if the mere act of going to a doctor is financially and emotionally abusive, until the problems are too large to ignore and the window of potentially successful preventative care has passed. A self-fulfilling prophecy is born: fat people get sick.

Fat people are paid less than thin people and are less valued in the work force. This increases a fat person’s basic life stress everyone lives with in our society, stress that’s well known to factor into the same health problems MSM loves to blame on the mere presence of body fat. That doesn’t matter, though, because the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have plenty of very expensive treatment options that’ll fix you right up: if you just pay them more and more money for the rest of your life. Obviously if you can’t pay, or if it doesn’t work, then you must not want to get better, you fatty.

We need to care as much for the 100-pound person who doesn’t have access to healthy food and healthy movement as much as we pretend to care for the 300-pound person who doesn’t have access to healthy food and healthy movement, and it’s time to stop faulting people for their situations and start providing equal healthcare to all citizens. The “shame on you, fatty!” approach isn’t working for fat people OR thin people. It’s only working for the diet industry, the insurance industry, the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the cheap-but-edible-food-like-substance industry…. The same industries controlling our government and our media that are keeping us unhealthy and uninformed in an attempt to keep us docile and subservient.

A government run by corporate puppets is never going to serve the people, and the people will never benefit in the long term, no matter how it’s framed in the short term. Citizens will continue to get sicker, and become easier to control, if we don’t get the corporate greed out of our government.

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10 Responses to “Fat phobia, the diet industry, and corporate greed”

  1. jennifer

    actually, i eat more now that i’m gluten-free! most doctors refused to believe that i wasn’t a big eater because of my size (plus i’ve been vegan for years, so clearly i must be lying and/or only eating french fries)… most of what i ate made me sick (all those whole grains– i wonder why!), and everything I did eat sat like a brick in my stomach all day and all night, so i didn’t eat very frequently. i’ve never been an overeater, but that’s the assumption doctors always made, because of my size.

    i was originally misdiagnosed with some other trendy conditions and I’m one of the 20-30% of celiacs who don’t test positive, but the symptoms that have resolved since going gluten-free have convinced me i don’t care what the tests say… obviously the doctors were wrong about everything else for the last 10-15 years! (ha) so frustrating.

    there’s a big study that was done linking sleep apnea to (high) weight, and it came out years later that the study data was fabricated to bring about the desired outcome (fatties will die!) by unscrupulous researchers! it infuriates me that we associate sleep apnea with body size because it’s not a strictly fat-afflicted condition and the science supports that, but we don’t practice science-based medicine in this country, or even patient-based medicine. we practice policy-based medicine.

  2. Simcha

    Jennifer,

    I have relatives with celiac. I’ve been tested and lucky I don’t. From what I know about celiac the damage the condition does to the lining of the small intestine prevents the proper absorption of nutrients. This can cause people with Celiac to be hungry more and eat more because the body signals the brain to tell it that it needs more food because it’s starved for nutrients. This, of course, increases calorie intake and can make you fat. Once a gluten free diet is well established and the small intestine heals, the body is able to absorb the proper nutrients from a lessened amount of food. Calorie intake goes down and weight decreases.

    So it makes sense that you are losing weight since your digestive system is healing. I’m so glad you have found out what was really ailing you.

    Yes, doctors trend to blame everything on weight. I have sleep apnea that was diagnosed by Kaiser. My doctor told me that my apnea would be cured if I only lost weight, of course…

    When I reported to the sleep lab to learn about how to treat it by using a cpap machine to help me keep my airway open, I noticed that all of the other participants in my class were thin! Seriously! These thin people all had sleep apnea too. Would their sleep apnea be cured by losing weight too? Lol!

    Thank you for speaking out about this issue.

  3. jennifer

    aw, i tried to reply to your comment but it came up as a reply to the post. still getting used to the format :)

  4. jennifer

    I really appreciate hearing your experiences. I agree with your ideas, too.

    Just adding a bit to your thoughts: When a wealthy person indulges a bit too much with the food of their choosing (possibly because their food choices are easily influenced by desires, rather than survival needs), they can afford not just elective cosmetic surgery, but healthier movement options: gym memberships, enjoyable movement options (dance, active gear-intensive hobbies, yoga and pilates instruction, swimming pool access, and safer neighborhoods in which to do “cheap” exercise like jogging and walking). They’ve also got the privilege of being able to choose the most fitting activities, within their physical abilities (walking a safe pool vs. walking because of knee problems). A person with low income is likely going to have little extra money to spend on healthy movement options (to exercise off that inexpensive but unhealthy food’s effects of high blood pressure and cholesterol), but “just jog, fatty” isn’t an option in their high-violent-crime but affordable rent neighborhood.

    What really makes me sad about expensive healthy food is that we think of it as “splurging” or treating ourselves when we buy a delicious fresh apple, but really we DESERVE this healthy food. Everyone deserves safe food. The splurging and treats should be the processed edible-but-not-nutritious stuff we see advertised on television. Safe healthy food makes and keeps people healthier than unsafe unhealthy foods. There is the potential to save money in the long run by eating healthier today, to avoid nutrition-related illnesses later. (Those same nutritional illnesses MSM loves to blame on fatness!)

    I LOVE the term nutritional justice!

    The weight loss industry MUST be stopped. People are getting sicker because of it, and are dying because of it. Now we’re indoctrinating children into the whole self-hating system, growing up hearing all about the horrible “epidemic” of people just like them.

    There’s already been studies to show that long-term dieting makes people sicker* and yet doctors keep insisting we keep doing it. How is that in our best interests?

    I empathize so much with your doctor experiences. I’ve been sick (and fat) my whole life, and doctors blamed my fatness for everything. (Even a sinus infection.) I had symptoms of back problems for over 10 years before I finally demanded an MRI and wouldn’t leave till I got orders for one, because I was so sick of being told to just lose weight and cure it. I actually have a permanent spinal injury and they blamed my fatness! I have celiac disease and doctors refused to entertain the notion because no fat person could have celiac disease. I’ve been sick my whole life because our entire food system is based on wheat, which has been genetically modified beyond recognition; most of the cheap food is wheat-based and wheat-contaminated, so I never stood a chance. How many other people are out there sick like I was? With 2/3 of the population considered DEATH FAT, and all kinds of illnesses on the rise, odds are good there are a lot of fatties out there going undiagnosed and improperly diagnosed (with a healthy dose of shaming and abuse) by an insurance and healthcare industry (rather than an independent well-educated and compassionate doctor), who are collectively doing a lot more harm than good. I’m in my 30s and I’m finally starting to feel ALIVE because I’m finally not being poisoned. Ironically, my weight has decreased through no efforts of my own other than not being poisoned by wheat– and I think weight loss commercials are giving me high blood pressure! They’ve got marketing down to an (evil) science. The weight loss industry wants us to believe WE WILL DIE if we don’t use their product (whether it’s a new cereal or a new surgery), and it’s all our fault if the product doesn’t work, because fatness is a disease of willpower, not a physical description. Since it’s our fault, we clearly just need to try harder by buying more of their snake oil and empty promises.

    Doctors have a pretty disheartening bias against people of size**, and they’ve been in cahoots with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries for awhile now. The rabbit hole just gets deeper.

    * http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15175588

    **http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2010/04/jdsc1-1004.html

  5. john seal

    Thanks to you both. Those are interesting articles.

  6. Simcha

    Rather, there are links in that post that you can access by the link I provided above pointing you to the abstract of the study and the press release for the study.

  7. john seal

    Could you please supply a link to the research proving BMI is bunk? Thanks.

  8. Simcha

    As a large white man I can really appreciate where you are coming from. The weight loss industry is relentless. Almost every commercial on over-the-air television (the only television many poor or working class people can afford (I can’t afford cable)) has a commercial for the lap band, diet pills, weight reduction pills, ridiculous exercise regimens, and ridiculous exercise products at just about every commercial break all day every day. Most of them have the central message that if you are fat you are depressed, a loser, unhealthy, unattractive, and lazy. Almost every talk show has at least several segments per month on how fat everyone is getting “proving” that this must be an epidemic and it’s allegedly costing us billions to keep those fatties alive, etc.

    I’m built large. I have a very large frame. Yes, I know it’s a joke to say, “I have big bones,” but it’s true. I do. I also have a big barrel chest. I was built for hardy labor and very cold winters where you needed extra pounds to make it through lean times. I’m not considered fat by everyone. I’ve been told I carry my weight well. Also it’s different somehow for a man. We’re allowed a few more pounds before the general public starts pointing in disgust or cackling with loud cheap laughter.

    However, my Kaiser doctor is after me at every appointment. I’m allegedly “morbidly obese” according to the BMI chart. I guess I should do everyone a favor by planning and paying for my funeral and the giant fortune it’s going to take to dispose of my giant body. Of course body builders and hollywood celebrities who work out are also “obese” or “morbidly obese” according to the BMI. The BMI uses only two variables: height and weight. It makes no allowances for muscle mass or bone mass. According to the BMI, when I was my thinnest (and looked gaunt with sunken-in cheeks because I thought I should be that thin) I should have lost another 15 to 20 pounds to be considered “not overweight.” In order to have lost that extra 15 to 20 pounds I would have had to become anorexic, shave off some bone, and lose some muscle mass. It wouldn’t have been healthy and I even had a doctor then who told me so.

    However, at present, my Kaiser doctor slavishly follows the BMI chart to the letter and I’m told at every visit that I’m “morbidly obese.” My cholesterol is in the “good” range at all levels and at “desireable” at some levels. I have perfect liver levels. All my other lab tests show I’m healthy. I have no plaque or heart disease. I don’t smoke. I eat healthy. I exercise moderately 5 days per week and I do my Qigong. But I’m still “morbidly obese” and therefore I’m not deemed “healthy.” That’s insanity.

    Yeah, I could lose 20 pounds or so and to put a little less stress on some of my joints. But I don’t think it’s some sort of emergnency as my doctor sometimes seems to try to convince me. I get asked at every appointment how many times I exercise per week, how long I exercise, what my food intake is like, etc. Sometimes the questions sound accusatory. It’s a good thing I have good self esteem because I shrug it off and often I have answered with information of my own.

    I think it’s no accident that some of the richest counties in the country are the thinnest counties in the country. Marin and San Francisco are among the top ten thinnest and I think that Marin may be the thinnest. Alameda County, of course, is at the other end of the scale. Gee, I wonder why?

    Rich people all have access to the health care of their choice. They can afford whatever they want to eat and it’s usually the best and most nutritious food. Also, if they happen to indulge and gain a few pounds, they can afford to have the fat sucked out of them, to have their tummies tucked, to have saggy areas propped up, or to have their stomachs stapled.

    Access to fresh fruits and vegetables costs a lot of money. My grocery bills are ridiculous for one person because I adore fresh fruit and vegetables. I allow myself this luxury even at my modest working class / middle class wage. I know the people whom I serve cannot afford what I eat. They do their best to fill themselves and to try to get proper nutrition but it’s difficult when fresh nutritious food is out of their price range.

    Of course the price isn’t the only barrier as the Tac Team was trying to illustrate. Access is a problem in poorer communities. Often the only choices to obtain food in poorer communities are liquor stores and fast food joints.

    And yet we get bombarded with esteem busting commercials over television, radio, and print that tell us that fat is killing us and that somehow if you are a large or fat person you are lazy, dirty, disgusting, unhealthy, unattractive, and a complete drain on society. The Corporate Machine that is the Weight Loss Industry is a tool of the 1% to destroy the health and self esteem of those who cannot afford or access nutritious fresh food and are large or fat. These people are disproportionately poor and working class.

    The lap band is an evil little invention that makes you anorexic and deprives you of nutrition. There are complications that can destroy your digestive system. Many of the pills and other “nutritional supplements” that are targeted at “fat” or “large” people are actually bad for your health and unproven wastes of money. Exercise gadgets are often complete rip offs. Find the “Shake Weight” sometime on youtube and you will have a good laugh thinking that the commercials are Saturday Night Live sketches because they are that bad and the product is so ridiculous. But no, they are serious commercials peddling crap to people who are put down, preached to, and goaded into low self-esteem in order to take their money.

    I could go on for pages and rant more, but I won’t.

    If we are going to focus on “Nutritional Justice” (I just came up with that), I propose we take on the Weight Loss Industry and the oppressive attack on people they (and the US Government) have labled as “fat” and therefore worthy of scorn, derision, lower pay, pity, disgust, ridicule, etc.