In 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.
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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