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Posts Tagged ‘fat people’

Food Fight! Why We Love To Hate Fat People

In behavior, food, Health on April 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...

Starch! Sugar! Fat! Carbs! Image via Wikipedia

Why do fat people make us insane?

I was struck by this recent, powerful post by fellow True/Slanter Ethan Epstein:

Imagine a television show on a major American network in which AIDS victims were paraded in front of the cameras and hectored by ultra-conservative evangelical ministers. The ministers inform the victims that they are being punished for their “decadence” and “hedonism.” Or perhaps a different program – one centered on people dying an agonizing death from lung cancer. They’d have cameras shoved in their faces as anti-smoking campaigners told them that if they wanted sympathy, well, tough. After all, they should never have smoked in the first place! Or, best of all, how about a show concerned with fat people. A chef from a foreign country would come stateside and lecture the citizens of America’s “most obese city” about how their unhealthy eating habits are going to consign them and their children to an early grave. This infantalizing message would be accompanied by lots and lots of camera shots lingering on the fatties’ rolls of flesh.

This week, kicking and screaming like a three-year-old who really needed a nap, I went to see a dietitian who put me on a severely restricted diet, on doctor’s orders. I don’t look obsese to most people. Curvy, yes. Definitely a candidate to shed some weight. I’ve gone into surgery more eagerly.

As Jamie Oliver is learning with his ABC television show, getting anyone to change what they eat — size, portions, taste, fat, salt, sugar — is a task far more complex than it appears. Set aside his show and the drama of battling school bureaucrats. Our emotional relationship to food and drink is like some tenacious desert plant, its wiry, tough roots buried deep in our psyches.

We eat what we eat, whether sipping, swallowing or gulping, for many many reasons, some unconscious.

Here’s what happened today at lunch. I ordered a small Caesar salad with grilled no-sauce chicken and a Diet Coke. I’m allowed, for that meal, two cups of salad and 2 tablespoons of oil and vinegar and 6 ounces of lean protein. No starches. I brought (hidden beside me, I ate alone) a measuring cup and set of measuring spoons. Waiters stared. I didn’t care.

The small salad, in our local Greek restaurant, was four cups of lettuce. It also had croutons that looked fried. A huge plate of fresh pita bread — I love warm pita! — dropped onto the table. A thick dish of creamy sauce. I had both taken away.

Were I my usual weary, distracted self, reading a newspaper or magazine or deep in conversation with a friend, I could easily have eaten both, inhaling a delicious 500 extra calories, all while eating “healthy” food. In only one meal.

My diet, for now, is about 1700 calories a day. Sounds like a lot to me. Hah! Hunger is now a constant companion. It’s like a little dog gnawing on my ankles, day and night. I’d like to drop-kick it across the room, (not a dog, the discomfort), and have two more weeks to go.

Millions of people today would be desperately thrilled to have access to half these calories.

We need to acknowledge to ourselves — our kids, our doctors, our mirrors, our fridges and grocery carts — that food is not simply fuel. We cling to it, and savor it and gobble it and gorge on it, for many reasons:

Culture: For many people, certain foods mean “home”, whether the fat-marbled smoked meat sandwiches Montreal is famous for; the creamy hummus of the Middle East; the flaky delight of a burek or baklava or croissant. It brings us, with every bite, closer to our country or culture of origin, in a nation of immigrants, no small thing.

Family: Feeding your family is the most primal act we commit, from the moment the baby latches onto the breast to deathbed purees.

Love: There are few easier, quicker, more affordable ways to show your love for someone than to cook them a meal, whether chicken soup or a birthday cake. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” women are told. And it is.

Memory: For my friend Dalina, it’s her Nana’s spaghetti sauce. For others, their mother’s pie or uncle’s barbecue. For my partner, who grew up in the Southwest, his late Mom’s posole. My Dad always adds fresh apple to his salads so when I do it I think of him. (I also do it when I sip a great glass of Scotch.)

Pleasure: In a time of terrible financial difficulty for millions of Americans, food and drink remain, for the fortunate, a ready and cheap source of refuge and comfort. If the fridge or cupboards are full, so, too will be our belly, if not our gas tank or bank account. The salty crunch of a fresh potato chip or the creamy smoothness of a rice pudding — bad for you!!! -- carry tremendous allure when everything else is simply too damn expensive right now.

For low-income families, “right now” can be a lifetime.

Yes, I know and I agree — everyone needs to make wise(r) choices, eat small(er) portions, stop choosing to consume fried crap crammed with chemicals and color and sugar and salt. Have you tried to buy a loaf of commercially made bread with no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup? Good luck!

The United States — unlike France, Germany, Canada, Japan — was founded by Puritans. People not, perhaps, wild about the sensual pleasures of the flesh. Consider this in the finger-wagging culture that mistakenly and punitively conflates the size of your ass with the value of your soul.

I am now doing physical therapy for my arthritic hip at an upscale health club. The parking lot, at 9:00 a.m, is so packed I can hardly find a space, jammed with Range Rovers and Mercedes and BMWs as dozens of lean, ropy women head inside for yoga or a class or a workout. They are not, clearly, distracted from their goals by a long commute or a job. It’s a lot easier to be skinny and nauseated by fatties when you’ve got hours to burn off every calorie that goes into your mouth.

The cheap easy rush — sort of an addictive sugar high, really — of loathing fat people needs to be moderated by compassion.

Some fat people have no money. Some work three jobs and have little time to find and cook fresh foods with the lowest calories. Their local stores or bodegas may not stock the right foods and drinks. They work weird hours and/or it may be dark, cold or too dangerous in their neighborhood before or after work to even go out for a healthy, vigorous walk. A gym or health club can cost a shocking amount; our small, crowded, worn suburban Y charges more than $80/month for a family membership. That’s not cheap.

And who will watch your kids?

Too many people are forced to gulp (!) meals at their desks, shoveling food into their faces as fast as possible to avoid looking slack or weak — someone who can be fired. Many are constrained by physical pain or injury — I haven’t been able to exercise since January. To the ignorant and judgmental observer, I’m PiggyGirl  — clearly someone with zero awareness of how she eats, obviously overweight from (not), snarfing Twinkies and double cheeseburgers.

When some of us can’t even cross a room without agony, and 46 million Americans suffer from some form of athritis, (only aggravated by obesity), it’s time for the skinnies to lay down their self-righteous whips.

The next time you feel like sneering at a fat person, whether their flesh is jammed up against yours on a bus or airplane, or on TV or at the gym, ask yourself why.

Big(ger) Furniture For Large People An Expanding Market

In business, Health on March 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm
Stainless steel table with eucalyptus wood FSC...

Probably not these...Image via Wikipedia

And in related news, here’s a growing market –furniture for very large people — as 68 percent of Americans are overweight and 34 percent obese.

From Dailyfinance.com:

While big-and-tall shops and plus-size stores have carved out attractive profits by catering to the sartorial needs of heavier consumers, the furniture market has largely ignored the growth in the American girth. Most U.S. armchairs, for example, are 20 to 26 inches in width, perfect for a slender frame, but too small for many customers nowadays. Meanwhile, dining room tables, beds and other standard furniture pieces are often too short, too narrow or too flimsy for plus-size users.

Although oversized furniture seems like a promising growth industry, it is also riddled with potential pitfalls. One difficulty lies in finding ways to sensitively market products to obese customers. Some online companies have decided that directness is the best policy: Oversize Furniture.com, for example, guarantees “Oversized Comfort,” and notes that its goal is “To bring joy to people and confidence to customers.” Meanwhile, Living XL is a bit more circumspect, promising to save its customers from “discomfort, frustration and inconvenience” with its products, which are targeted at “tall and plus-sized men and women.”

The best-positioned plus-size company may be Brylane Home. Originally a spinoff of Lane Bryant, it is currently owned by Redcats USA, a division of PPR, a French retail group. Although Brylane is no longer associated with Lane Bryant, the similarities between their names allows the online company to be a little more coy about its products and target clientele. In fact, Brylane’s website says the company is known as “America’s White Sale Catalog” — a year-round discount retailer.

How do you sell this tactfully?

Fat Luck? The Obese Have Very Little Of It

In behavior, Health on March 19, 2010 at 8:39 am
Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...

Image via Wikipedia

Interesting essay this week in The New York Times about how and when the seriously overweight feel others’ contempt:

As a woman whose height and weight put me in the obese category on the body-mass-index chart, I cringed when Michelle Obama recently spoke of putting her daughters on a diet. While I’m sure the first lady’s intentions are good, I’m also sure that her comments about childhood obesity will add yet another layer to the stigma of being overweight in America.

Last August, Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, a cardiac surgeon and chief executive of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, told a columnist for The New York Times that if he could get away with it legally, he would refuse to hire anyone who is obese. He probably could get away with it, actually, because no federal legislation protects the civil rights of fat workers, and only one state, Michigan, bans discrimination on the basis of weight.

Dr. Cosgrove may be unusually blunt, but he is far from alone. Public attitudes about fat have never been more judgmental; stigmatizing fat people has become not just acceptable but, in some circles, de rigueur. I’ve sat in meetings with colleagues who wouldn’t dream of disparaging anyone’s color, sex, economic status or general attractiveness, yet feel free to comment witheringly on a person’s weight.

The writer, Harriet Brown, teaches magazine journalism at the Newhouse School in Seattle. She also found that doctors…!?…hate fatties:

Some of the most blatant fat discrimination comes from medical professionals. Rebecca Puhl, a clinical psychologist and director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, has been studying the stigma of obesity for more than a decade. More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned for one study described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” (This last is significant, because doctors who think patients won’t follow their instructions treat and prescribe for them differently.)

Dr. Puhl said she was especially disturbed at how openly the doctors expressed their biases. “If I was trying to study gender or racial bias, I couldn’t use the assessment tools I’m using, because people wouldn’t be truthful,” she said. “They’d want to be more politically correct.”

Despite the abundance of research showing that most people are unable to make significant long-term changes in their weight, it’s clear that doctors tend to view obesity as a matter of personal responsibility. Perhaps they see shame and stigma as a health care strategy.

I need to lose weight. My GP wants me to lose so much weight I might as well cut off a leg or two to get started.

I want to lose weight, too — and for the past three months have been fighting excruciating hip and back pain. You can’t exercise when you’re in agony! One of the toughest issues when trying to lose weight is being told — over and over and over — by your family, your doctors and every single women’s magazine featuring anorexic 15-year-old models — what to do, what you must do, what is the smart, healthy choice.

You can be overweight and still have a functioning brain! We’re not deaf, you know.

Telling someone what to do is very different from helping them achieve a challenging goal. We live in a finger-wagging culture, where every self-righteous size 4 feels totally fine telling the rest of us if you just….be like moi!…we’d be fine. Going into stores to buy something pretty, even willing to spend some serious coin, and being told, oh no, we sell nothing larger than a 12 is another smack in the head. Larger sizes? Only on the website, blubber-butt!

I still make money, Ann Taylor, French Connection, J. Crew…

I often feel so totally overwhelmed by my competing responsibilities — and I don’t even have all the additional, relentless and time-consuming demands of kids and/or pets and/or a commute and/or a parent with Alzheimer’s — that going to the damn gym or taking my hour-long 4-mile walk falls right off the list after: earn money (in this recession, freelance, no small challenge), manage whatever money I’ve earned, saved and invested meticulously, get out and drum up more paid work to make sure that next month’s bills are paid, finish my book, work on the next book idea, take care of my partner and our home.

And, oh yeah, take care of my body, spirit and mind.

It is easy to feel hopeless and fed up. It is hard(er) work to do what needs to be done.

No Sex For Fatties! Dating Website Turfs The Chubby, Most Of Them Americans

In behavior, business on January 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm
bubbles

Image by <<graham>> via Flickr

You’re too damn fat to get lucky, according to this website.

Even for a dating service that boasts of being “the largest network of attractive people in the world”, there is something unashamedly naked and upfront about BeautifulPeople.com’s latest PR stunt.

The global community, which allows users to decide whether prospective candidates have got the necessary aesthetic appeal to join them, has just expelled more than 5,000 members for letting themselves go over the festive period.

BeautifulPeople.com said its hand had been forced by gluttonous members in the US, UK and Canada who had revealed the scale of their yuletide overindulgence in pictures posted online.

“Vigilant” fellow members, it added, had demanded action. “As a business, we mourn the loss of any member,” said the site’s founder, Robert Hintze. “But the fact remains that our members demand the high standard of beauty be upheld.”

To dispel any lingering doubts about the company’s position, he added: “Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.”

The site’s managing director, Greg Hodge, pointed out that the fate of the exiled “chubby members” had been democratically decided. “Their re-applications were reviewed by existing members and only a few hundred were voted back in,” he said. “Over 5,000 were rejected.”

Hodge blamed the slipping seasonal standards on decadent western traditions. “Every year we see that some of our members from western cultures eat and drink to excess over the holidays and clearly their looks suffer. In the UK and Canada, Christmas and the new year are all about over-eating, over-drinking and watching TV on the sofa.”

The US, he added, appeared particularly prone to winter greediness. “The USA has been grossly over-indulging since thanksgiving – it’s no wonder that so many members have been expelled from the network. We hope they will be back after shedding the festive pounds.”

According to the site, however, managers have been kind in breaking the news to former members. Each is said to have received an email encouraging them to re-apply when they are back to looking their best. They have also been sent details of recommended boot camps.

Although the US topped the list of expulsions, with 1,520 members sent off, the UK came second, with 832 of its residents judged too fat to fit in. Canada was placed third, followed by Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, Turkey and Russia.

Yeah, baby. None of of that hideous, fleshy self-indulgence allowed! All that hot chocolate and candy canes and….what were we thinking? Pleasure?! OMG.

Let the skinny-gorgeous-perfect crowd keep their boundaries high. The rest of us will be out here, sucking back a consolatory single-malt, munching a few cashews and hugging our less-judgmental honeys.

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