When We Lost Our Damn Minds

In the future a group of kids of all sizes will be sitting in health class.  Their teacher will be explaining about eating a variety of food, and how it’s important that you keep listening to your body when it comes to what you eat and what kind of movement you want to do.

One of the kids says “My great grandma was talking about being on a diet. What’s a diet?”

The teacher explains “That comes from the time when people decided that all bodies should be thin. Trying to get their body to be a different size than it was naturally, people decided to feed their bodies less than what they needed to try to make them smaller”.

Another kid asks “Why?”

The teacher explains “People got confused and thought that the only way to be healthy was to be thin.”

The kid asks “Did it work?”

The teacher sighs “No, not at all. It turns out that dieting actually often made people’s bodies bigger than they were meant to be permanently and messed up their metabolisms.  Some people were able to lose weight in the short term but almost nobody succeeded over the long term and a lot of people ended up less healthy after dieting.  Also, people who had larger bodies were tremendously stigmatized by everything from magazines to doctors and for a long time large-bodied people were treated like second class citizens – people assumed that they were lazy, weak-willed, even less smart than thin people –  and the stress from that lead to a lot of diseases that got blamed on those people’s body sizes by the people who were stigmatizing them.”

“Wow” a little girl with a larger body will say, “I’m glad I didn’t live then.”

I believe that in the future of public health, this time in history will become known as the time when we lost our damn minds.

If you can step back from this you’ll see how ridiculous it is.

The assertion that human bodies are the only thing in nature that doesn’t come in a variety of sizes.

Pathologizing body sizes, asserting that someone’s weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared constitutes a health diagnosis, instead of just doing the simple, inexpensive tests that actually measure our health.

The First Lady giving talks against bullying while simultaneously waging a national war against children who are fat.

Companies trying to convince us that permanent or even temporary stomach amputation will make us healthier.  These same companies becoming entrenched in the public health sector doing everything from convincing the NIH to lower what is considered a “healthy BMI” to holding contests to win free stomach amputations and commissioning studies with horrible research methods to sell more of their product.

Yesterday in the comments of this blog a woman who self-identified as a Registered Dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator, Master of Public Health, and Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist tried to make the argument that because diabetes and obesity are correlated you can say with no question that being obese increases your risk of diabetes.  (If you’re not sure why that argument is flawed, check it out in the comments from yesterday’s blog.)

I write a blog that suggests that if people want to be healthy their best chance is to eat well and move their bodies.  I make it a point in the blog to never tell anyone how to live or what choices they should make. And I get death threats.  I have so much ridiculous hatemail that I made a separate page for it.  (Of course I happily admit that writing the replies is cathartic and it makes me happy that their hate supports my work.)

We have lost our damn minds, and it helps me to remember that when all of the craziness that I just mentioned comes flying at me. It’s not me, it’s them.  And they can’t beat me down with all their crazy because I have hope!

World Tour Update

I’m headed to San Francisco next week where, among other places, I will be speaking at Google Headquarters!  I’m so excited!!!  If you are interested in having an event, or you live in San Francisco and just want to hang out while I’m there, let me know.  You can comment here or e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org.

There are a lot of places that want an event but can’t afford to pay even for travel and expenses. I’m trying to raise some funds so that I can get to those folks too.  If you are interested in supporting that effort, you can check out the Support the World Tour page.

And finally a little housekeeping…

At the request of a number of readers, I have overcome my tech-challengedness and added a search function to the blog (you can find it in the column on the right hand side under the subscribe box).  Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “When We Lost Our Damn Minds

  1. As I write the next part of FatLand, Part II: The Early Days, the first FatLand schools are contemplating *exactly* this – what to tell children about the flawed and dangerous reasoning behind dieting without scaring them or making them feel anxious or unworthy (or that, heaven forbid, it might again become fashionable someplace).

    One day because of your work and the work of people like you, dieting will indeed be the product of a rheumy, bewildering past. And people will look at each other in puzzlement and say “What could they have been thinking?”

  2. woot-woot for the search I’ve spent so much time hunting down your specific awesomeness on the subject I wanted, but have enjoyed everything i’ve read in said pursuit …

    1. I had a big discussion with my husband about this article. It was a teachable moment; I think I was able to make him think. What I really hate is when he says “it’s been tough to let myself go.” I say he hasn’t “let himself go”. It implies a lack of effort. How can it be tough to do something that takes no effort? Instead, he has been spending immense effort to change his diet completely, and to avoid exercise entirely.

  3. Maybe a little OT but regarding that work and illness study in the earlier post you linked to, there was an article this week on HuffPost on this very same subject:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/unhealthy-employees-cost-153-billion_n_1016568.html?ir=Healthy%20Living
    Note how in the article – it’s all ‘healthy people with no conditions’ versus ‘obese people with chronic conditions’. There’s no comment on the fact that absentee levels for healthy ‘obese’ and ‘normal weight’ individuals are near as dammit the same – and no mention at all of normal weight people with chronic health conditions, who were in fact mentioned in the study (as anyone can see if they follow the link) and who suffer, surprise surprise, as near as dammit the same levels of absence as the ‘obese’ folks with chronic conditions. In other words, the only real finding from this study seems to be ‘Whatever your size, having chronic illness makes you take more days off work’ – no shit, Sherlock – but look at how they report it. And the usual dehumanizing photo to go with it.

    Seriously, this stuff can’t end soon enough for me. I’m not the first to point it out, but I see today’s touting of weight-loss as a cure for every illness as a medical fad, on exactly the same level as Victorian medics believing that sexual ‘excess’ was to blame for every known disease – right down to the fact that they used genital surgery (mostly on women) to ‘cure’ the imagined disorder, just as WLS is used today. I’d like to think our descendants will look back on both as barbaric.

    1. Agree 100%. It also makes me think of the fad for the transorbital lobotomy in the 1940s and early 50s. *shudder* I think the one common thread that runs through the medical beliefs of every generation is the conviction that current knowledge is correct, that our strongest held beliefs about medical science must be truth. Yeah, those scientists back then made some crazy mistakes, but WE know better. Riiiiight. 😛
      Those scientists studying work absenteeism certainly never talked to me. I’m fat but I only get sick once or twice a year and I rarely take sick days. I have almost 100 sick days accumulated. The two thin women I work with take days a lot more often than I do, and both have certainly cost the medical system as least as much as I have, if not more. There are plenty of other thin people at my workplace who take more time than me as well.

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