Is Canadian Obesity Network Really OK Killing 15 of Every 1,000 Fat People?

Tank is concernedI’m sure that the folks (or at least some of the folks) at the Canadian Obesity Network are well-meaning and well-intentioned but wow are they doing some messed up things.

First of all, they are pushing “person first” language.  It is a terrible idea for many reasons that we talked about at length here.

They also link to the “Obesity Action Coalition” (a complete nightmare of an organization) as a resource, which creates immediate mistrust for me.

They are co-opting the language of Fat Activism and Health at Every Size in their “anti-discrimination” work, while still working to eradicate fat people.

But the most egregious thing I’ve seen so far was on their Facebook page:


The Facebook conversation above resulted from a post on CONs Facebook page that asked people to talk about their weight loss surgery.

Brilliant activist Marilyn Wann pointed out:

The people who are killed by stomach amputation won’t really be able to tell their stories, will they? Fat people deserve safe, effective, weight-neutral treatment for our medical concerns, not deadly attempts at eugenics.

And can I just say “Hell yeah, Marilyn Wann!”  In response CON posted:

Actually very few people are “killed” by bariatric surgery – less than 15 out if a [sic] 1,000 who have the surgery – read the article! The author is a surgeon who himself had the surgery. [Editor’s note:  It’s the least of the problems with this, but I did read the article and the author is a woman who is not a surgeon and did not have the surgery. WTF CON?]

So is the Canadian Obesity Network really ok with killing nearly 15 out of every 1,000 fat people (and letting many others live their lives in literal agony with horrific long-term side effects)?  Do they really think it’s reasonable to kill almost 15 out of every 1,000 fat people in an effort to prevent or cure health issues that can have weight-neutral treatments that don’t include a nearly 1.5 in 100 chance of dying?  After all, thin people get the same illnesses as fat people and they are given evidence-based health interventions, not prescriptions and surgeries for body size manipulation.

I don’t get surprised by fatphobia a lot anymore, but even I’m shocked at how flippant this CON representative (a representative of a group that is supposed to be all about supporting fat people) is about killing nearly 15 out of every 1,000 of us, and describing that number as “very few.” Especially considering how the people who profit highly from these surgeries are constantly trying to expand the pool of people recommended for the procedure (often through the lobbying of organizations like the Canadian Obesity Network.)

On their website they claim that “six million Canadians living with obesity may require immediate support in managing and controlling their weight.”  If half of those Canadians turned to stomach amputation, then their surgeons would kill about 45,000 of them.  And CON considers that number to be “very few.” I’m betting those people’s families and friends don’t agree. I certainly don’t – especially considering it’s an elective procedure that may not have any health benefits and may have horrible long-term side effects for those it doesn’t kill. Once again it seems like in the “War on Obesity” they want us thin or dead and they don’t much care which.

That doesn’t include the fact that this figure is very likely low-balled because of a lack of long term follow up and the tendency to blame the patient (and not the surgery) if they die (also known as “surgery successful, patient died.”) It also doesn’t discuss the fact that many people live with unimaginable lifelong side effects, nor does it talk about the long term effects of surgically-induced malnutrition, and that many people regain their weight but not their ability to get proper nutrition. And, as Marilyn Wann pointed out, the people who are the most negatively affected are the least likely to have the chance to tell their stories publicly.

People should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including amputating perfectly healthy organs for whatever their reasons might be, people can choose to have this surgery despite the risks (though it’s arguable that anyone can truly give informed consent considering the lack of long term follow up data, the ways that this surgery is sold as a cure-all from diabetes to dating woes, and the fact that most surgical centers do not include stories from people whose surgeries resulted in nightmarish side effects in the information and presentations that they give prospective customers – still their bodies, their choice.)

Regardless, I think that organizations that claim to exist to support fat people should not be so flippant about killing tens of thousands of us.

Did you miss the
Fat Activism Conference?
It’s not too late!

You can still register to get access to all the recordings, transcripts, speaker handouts, and the conference goody bag! Get recordings of all 30 speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and more. The pay what you can option is still available so that money is not a barrier.

Click Here to Register!

Registration closes October 9th (though of course you’ll have time after that to listen and download.)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.







16 thoughts on “Is Canadian Obesity Network Really OK Killing 15 of Every 1,000 Fat People?

  1. So I would run a one and a half percent chance of dying due to this surgery? Look, I play D&D, OK? I have rolled percentage dice before. I will not accept those odds.

    1. I posted this earlier and it got lost in the wordpress shuffle, but those are actually the same roughly 1-in-50 death rate statistics other mainstream outlets have reported, spun to look less dangerous than they are.

      Also, I love the way they put “killed” in “air quotes,” as if there’s a difference between being killed and “killed” by an unnecessary surgery.

      1. The air quotes raised my ire as well. Air quotes implies something isn’t real or serious. Death is one of the most real and serious things possible!

        1. Remember, to these clowns, we’re not people, we’re monsters that were never really alive, so we can’t be killed like a real live person could, only “killed.”

      2. Yeah, I didn’t notice the “air quotes” until this morning 8P

        I wonder if they want to lump the WLS deaths together with the bullshit statistics about deaths “caused” by obesity. It wouldn’t surprise me if they insisted that every fat person’s death was “really” “caused” by “obesity”.

        As I said, “bullshit”.

        1. Want to? They DO. It’s actually even better than that; there are lobbyists who will proudly label *car accidents* as deaths from obesity. Car accidents. Their justification is that since safety equipment isn’t made with fat bodies in mind, and since rescuers aren’t trained to work on fat bodies, fat people are more likely to be killed in car accidents (again, due to *outside factors nothing they do personally can affect*)… and therefore dying in a car accident while fat means you died of obesity.

          On second thought, calling them clowns is an insult to Pennywise.

  2. What the world really needs a good fat research center where we find out things like how much medicine to give people at different weights the true outcomes of surgeries like this.

    1. A good idea.
      But I bet folks would just ignore the conclusions such an institution would issue. And do so in a very insulting manner.

      1. Fat scientist researching fat people? They can’t possibly know what they’re talking about, or have any valuable findings. After all, fat people are too dumb to know ANYTHING, if they can’t figure out how to get and stay thin.

        After all, as all “real” people know, getting and staying thin is simplicity, itself! Calories in/calories out! There ARE NO OTHER VARIABLES!

        Where is that sarcasm font?

  3. I am never surprised either. Fact is the last three generations have literally never known a world where “obesity=fate worse than death” isn’t a given. 15 out of a 1,000. Say it about any other marginalized group of people and you’d be run over. Didn’t Canada have on it’s required reading list: “You’re Somebody: How To Be A Slim Kid.”, like for decades?

  4. Hey, I had a Say Something Sunday recently, except I think it was Thursday. I was at another blog where the topic of homebirth came up and homebirth advocates were being put down as stupid and silly. I pointed out that an OB I was referred to for shadow care by my midwife lied to me about what my measurements meant (I can read the same charts they used TYVM), believed that ridiculous story about fat women’s vaginas being clogged with fat, and also believed that I was headed for a perinatal cardiac event despite never having an abnormal blood pressure reading (except from him). Meanwhile, other OBs at the practice dismissed, and told me to dismiss, obvious signs of a UTI while obsessively testing my pee for GD and then somebody in the building wrote that I had had GD right on top of a stack of papers proving that I had never had even a borderline positive result throughout three pregnancies. The midwife caught the UTI, gave me the charts to read for my own self, and prepped me for actively having a baby instead of lying there being saved from my horrible fatness. And that, I said, was why I had all three babies at home with a midwife: it was safer to be with someone who actually saw the patient in front of them. And I had three healthy kids.

    To which the blog owner replied that statistics show that having a baby while fat is dangerous.

    Oh well; at least I tried.

  5. I was horrified to see an article in a recent New Yorker magazine that was basically a boosterish piece about WLS. I have to admit I didn’t read all of it because it was pissing me off, but it’s loaded with the usual bogus stuff, apparently countered only by those who are peddling the surgery. At the end, the author mused about how people who have had WLS are in a way a new type of human being. Barf! (See what I did there?) I’ve wanted to write them an angry letter but to do that I’d need to carefully read the article and I just can’t. I am a lifelong reader and subscriber, so I am especially disappointed in the sloppiness of this thing. I really think they are slipping.

    Here’s a link for anyone brave enough to plow through it:

    1. Lots of industry shill articles make me angry. Few have managed to *creep me out* to the extent that one did. The dreamy fantasy tone taken to describe mutilating a healthy, functioning bowel to (maybe) create a cosmetic change… the bold statement of Everyone Knows as if it’s established fact… the condescending compassion… the cherry-picking and the doublethink*… it’s a window into the mind of an active fatphobe, a look at what they THINK they’re doing while they’re calling you a fat bitch, yanking “immoral” things out of your cart, and throwing their trash at you.

      *If you need examples of the doublethink, the three most egregious are a) the article opens with the story of a man who’s had multiple bariatric surgeries, none of which have worked, and then it later claims recipients of bariatric surgery keep the weight off long-term; b) it condemns the moralization of fat bodies and then goes on a tangent about all the bad things it Just Knows people must be doing to get fat bodies, and c) it admits early in the article experts have determined dieting does not cure or repress “obesity,” then waxes poetic about diets at the end (remember, a diet is still a diet *even if you change what you call it*).

      1. Also, one of the surgeons interviewed let it slip they operated on a The Biggest Loser contestant.

  6. My husband was having a lot of pain in his lower back and rear. He went to an Ortho, had an MRI, received a steroid injection in his spine. It didn’t help. At a follow up visit at an Ortho, a different surgeon subbed in to see my husband. He left the room to look at the MRI, and when he returned he said “Your hips are done. Have you ever thought about fat surgery?” Yes he used that word. Then, he told my husband (I was not there or I would have flipped my lid) that he had a fracture in his hip that was never repaired and needed a hip replacement surgery (husband is 42), but he’s too fat for that, so instead he referred him to a bariatric surgeon. He did nothing about my husband’s problem, which was pain which is making it hard for him to sleep, hard for him to exercise, hard for him to live his life. So to sum up, go to the doctor for pain, get diagnosed as fat, get sent for weight loss surgery. No treatment for pain provided. Fast forward to the bariatric visit. I was shocked to see that the bariatric surgeon’s lab coat was embroidered with the name of the Ortho practice. They are partners! How is that OK? Isn’t that a little convenient for the Ortho to say ” too fat” and send desperate patients along to his buddy to get their fat surgery, so they can then bounce right back to Ortho for their hip replacement?

    My husband sought a second opinion from another Ortho practice and he basically said, yes you need surgery but you are too fat for surgery so instead you need this other surgery and then you can have surgery. Makes perfect sense.

    By the way, I asked the bariatric surgeon how it was that a fat person could safely receive bariatric surgery but not hip replacement surgery. He told me it’s because heavy people have been shown to not be able to participate in the necessary rehab after ortho surgeries, so they don’t do well. I said, what do you mean? He said, well, they tend to not be able to do physical therapy or get out of bed and walk. I said, look my husband just walked into this office with a broken hip. Then he said, well keep in mind most people getting hip replacements are elderly. I said, oh that makes perfect sense. I’m glad my husband is receiving personalized care based on his needs since he’s 42 years old and very active as much as he can be.

    A few months later (now 6 months into pre-op for bariatric surgery) my husband goes for a third opinion. This new ortho looks at the MRI. Guess what? No hip fracture, does not need a hip replacement. It’s sacroiliac joint stenosis. An actual problem causing pain which has nothing to do with fat.

    How is this OK?

    Last week a packet came in the mail from our insurance company. It said they had enrolled my husband in their “healthy endeavors” program for people with chronic diseases and assigned him a health coach, based on his medical claims. The packet included a bunch of stuff about diet and weight loss.

  7. I have not the slightest doubt that many fat bigots want nothing more than to kill every fat person and FA by whatever guile, social pressure, advertising etc. that they think will work. They especially aim at children and women in puberty as well as their parents, who often are not knowledgeable.If they can’t kill directly at least screw up their heads. WLS is no more effective than dieting which is rarely “permanently” effective. bariatric surgeons are the highest paid “specialty” of surgery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.