Kelly Clarkson and the Obesity Epi-Panic

WTF are you doingIn Touch Weekly is not a paragon of ethical, responsible journalism.  But their recent article about Kelly Clarkson is a prime example of the way that the obesity epi-panic plays out everyday in popular media.

Body Positive Click Bait Title

Check. The piece draws you in with a title that is makes it seem like it’s a positive article “Kelly Clarkson is All Smiles – She’s Not Letting Her Weight Critics Bring her Down.”  Good for Kelly Clarkson.

Doctor with no attachment to professionalism or ethics

Check. “Dr. Stuart Fischer — who has never treated the star — estimated she weighs more than 200 pounds. He speculates that she’s gained nearly 100 pounds since her American Idol days.”

Not exactly all the news that’s fit to print, the operative terms here being “never treated”, “estimated”, “speculates”.

Gratuitous before and after picture.

Checkity check.  Ten years ago before she had her baby and when she was not a big star yet and likely under tremendous pressure to suppress her weight, beside a picture from 10 years later, post baby, and based on her responses to her haters in a place where she doesn’t give a crap what people think of her body.

Dire predictions 

Check. “But Dr. Fischer worries that if she doesn’t change her health habits — she may not be around to see River grow up. He says, “Obesity shortens life by 3 to 5 percent.”

Let’s be clear that he is saying that she should “change her health habits” with absolutely zero knowledge of what her current health habits are.  This is reflected in the experiences of countless fat people whose doctors tell us to “eat less and exercise more” without ever asking how much we eat or exercise.  It’s lazy, incompetent, unethical medicine.

Besides that, even if you believe the statistic (and I would love to see the research that led a medical professional – such as he is – to feel ok stating this as if it’s a fact in National media) his math is questionable. Kelly Clarkson is 33 years old. Her daughter, River, is one year old.  The average lifespan for a Female in the US is 82.1 years old (at a record high, even with the so-called “obesity epidemic”) and that’s the lifespan of a female who isn’t super rich with the best of everything at her disposal.  But let’s go with 82.1 years old.  5% of that is 4.1 years.  So instead of dying at 82.1 when her daughter is 49, she would die at 78 years old when her daughter is 45 years old. And that’s the worst case scenario. I wouldn’t classify that as not being around to see her daughter grow up.

But how many times have we heard these dire predictions as if all fat people (and especially fat parents) are going to drop dead tomorrow of chronic being fatness. Predictions that aren’t only not backed by any kind of good research, but aren’t even backed by basic addition and subtraction.

It seems like the title of this article should have been “We can’t get Kelly Clarkson to buy into body size hysteria so we got a doctor to freak out and make shit up.”

I’ve talked about how any article about the science of weight and health is reader beware, but I’m started to think that if we greeted every article about body size and health – from “scientific” reporting to tabloids – by yelling “That’s bullshit!” and clicking on something else, we’d probably be better off (and better educated) than if we read them.

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19 thoughts on “Kelly Clarkson and the Obesity Epi-Panic

  1. She looks perfectly healthy to me. Sure I haven’t examined her but then neither has that crazy doctor (as you point out)! Much as I don’t like to judge people by appearances I think Clarkson in the pictures looks beautiful, glowing and fit. Maybe they should all just shut the f… up since they got nothing to say. There’s irony in how the article refers to “haters” too before inciting non-needed hate.

  2. Since every time a fat person scandalously insists on being talented in public and making fatphobes who rely on their body shape for their self-esteem nervous, the media pretty much runs this same article, maybe there should be a Mad Libs version where all they have to do is plug in the names of their latest victims and spokespuppets. It’s not like they care about accuracy, and it’d save them time and money.

    1. If we went full tilt Mad Libs on these articles and allowed ourselves to replace significant words with other word salad, they would still be at least as accurate… but much, much more amusing. Case in point:

      “But Dr. Fischer ululates that if she doesn’t obfuscate her health weasels — she may not be around to see River mangle up. He says, “Obesity fornicates life by 3 to 5 percent.”

      Now THAT would be an article worth reading, and far more sensible than the original.

    2. This is true. I’m old enough to remember when it was Kirstie Alley and Rosie O’Donnell at the business end of the nation’s “concern.” In fact, they’re both scheduled to be dead of heart fat explosion right… about… hunh. They’re both alive and smiling – how could this BE!

  3. She looks great to me! Weight gain or not. I did the unspeakable and read the comments and everyone who had commented was really supportive and saying the Doctor was talking bullshit.

  4. She looks beautiful and healthy. That doctor is full of S#^t and needs to go pound sand. So glad everyone who commented on that article was supportive. Not only will Kelly Clarkson live to see her daughter grow up, her daughter will likely not suffer the physical and mental tortures of weight obsession.

  5. There is so much evidence that shows that you cannot determine a person’s health just by looking at them. So why are “thin = healthy” and “fat = unhealthy” so deeply ingrained in our minds? Even when we know it is not true, why do we think like this?! I don’t think it is “the diet industry” because this is seen in my culture (Bahraini), and we didn’t have Weight Watchers and co. when these ideas came up.

  6. Oh, no–not two hundred pounds! GASP!

    Excuse me, I think I’m going to be rolling my eyes forever.

    Two hundred pounds is an arbitrary number idiots like to throw out there because they have absolutely no concept of what any weight looks like on any human being, but they’ve decided that one is just TOO BIG. For women, anyway. Most people who say that sort of thing would likely be shocked to learn how many women they think of as not fat actually hover pretty close to that weight.

    If I remember correctly, I think Kelly Clarkson did beauty pageants when she was a teen. If that’s not pressure to stay thin, I don’t know what is.

    1. Reminds me of the woman telling me with great “concern” about her enormously obese sister. “She must weigh two hundred and fifty pounds!” she kept saying. To me, who at that moment weighted two hundred and fifty-three. She had no idea.

  7. And by the way, Kelly Clarkson isn’t fat. I am SURE she weighs less than 200 pounds, and I am SURE she hasn’t gained over 100 pound since AI. Has she gained some weight? Sure! (haven’t most of us?) Does she look and sound great? Sure! (and isn’t that what matters?)

    Yes, I’m obese, and I hate this obsession with being thin!! And no, I don’t know exactly how much Kelly weighs (but as you point and commenters point out, neither does this doc!)

  8. I’m so tired of morons thinking that it’s acceptable to insult a woman’s body just as long as their scorn is wrapped in phony concern for her health. Try keeping your sanctimonious contempt to yourself, Dr. Asshat.

  9. I *love* that you did the simple addition and subtraction to calculate Kelly Clarkson’s odds of dying at the earlier age of 78 when her daughter would be 45. That was classic.

    That said, I’m a bit baffled by all the commenters here who are saying, “She looks perfectly healthy!” Aren’t Ragen’s blogs enough to get you to realize that this is exactly what we’re speaking out against? If you want to say she looks good because her skin is glowing or she looks happy and content with life, then say that. The whole point of speaking out about this kind of speculative bullshit is to remind us that there is NO WAY to determine someone’s health or fitness status based on their appearance.

    1. I was also pretty surprised to see a few of Ragen’s regular commenters commenting on how she “looks healthy”. I would have thought that regular readers of this blog would know better than to participate in looks based health assessments.

    2. Yeah, probably not something people should do based on her appearance. However she probably is perfectly healthy, aside from having the money for top notch health care, performing on stage almost every night is very physically demanding. When I was performing with a band back in my early 20s I’d be exhausted by the end of a concert or practice session and that was only for a small amateur concert band that didn’t involve any running around or dancing on stage.. Someone who isn’t reasonably fit isn’t going to be able to do it.

  10. I don’t follow stars, so not sure who Kelly Clarkson is. But having had a child, I know the year or so after the baby is born is a time you are a lot heavier than you were right before. Few women go on to “lose all the baby weight” immediately, if at all. Well I was overweight before my son was born, fat after, and remained fat his entire childhood. He’ll be twenty soon. My health has suffered more form losing weight in the past few years, from having an ED (only way I’ve been able to lose weight but that’s another story).
    So yeah this is all pretty silly.

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