Fat Luck? The Obese Have Very Little Of It

Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...
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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.

From 501 To 170 Pounds: A Man, A Bike, The Builder Who Believed In Him

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Image by Ralph Hockens via Flickr

Here is an amazing story — of grit, courage and determination. The man, Scott Cutshall, is not an Olympic athlete, but a regular guy, a Dad, who used to weigh 501 pounds and now, thanks to a newfound passion for bicycling and a custom-built bike that allowed him to get started even while he was gargantuan — weighs 170.

This piece is by Frank Bures who has written for Mother Jones, Outside, Esquire and Harper’s, among others. I found this today in a doctor’s waiting room in Bicycling magazine and it’s a great read:

The news was not good. The doctor gave him six months to live without bariatric surgery. With it, the doctor said, Cutshall had a 50 percent chance of making it out of the operating room.

“I’m a dead man,” said Cutshall, sobbing softly.

Over the next few years, even as he defied that dire prediction, every doctor, every authority he consulted would give him equally urgent warnings. Everyone told him the same thing: Lose weight or die. At the doctor’s office that day in 2002, Cutshall had voiced the foremost question in his mind.

“Do you think I can lose the weight on my own?”

“No,” the doctor had said. “At your weight, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it.”

One day, he sees a cyclist whizzing past his window, since all he could do at that point is stay home, and finds a bike-builder in whom he confides his unlikely dream, to start riding again:

Bob Brown, a part-time bike builder from Minnesota, happened to be at a low point in his queue. “Honestly, I didn’t take it real seriously,” Brown says. “I’ve had plenty of people claim to want to get back in shape and change their lives, but they didn’t follow through on it. So I responded and said I’d be willing to talk to him about it, but I really never thought I’d hear back from him.”

Five days later, the two settled on a frame and a price. Brown, who would be traveling to New York for his other job as a design engineer, agreed to stop by and take some measurements.

“Scott made dinner for me the first night,” Brown recalls. “He couldn’t stand up for more than a minute before his legs were exhausted. He cooked dinner, but he sat at the stove and asked me to get ingredients for him. I remember thinking: Wow, I can’t imagine living this guy’s life.”

Three months after Brown’s visit, in early 2005, he flew back into town with Cutshall’s new ride, a mono-grammed blue-and-white, steel-framed cycle with tandem-strength wheels and a fork that took Brown as long to build as the entire rest of the bike. It was, he says, at least five times stronger than it needed to be.

Read this story, put down that cupcake/beer/pizza — and get to the gym! It certainly inspired me.

Demi's Missing Hip, Madonna's 'Ageless' Face, Crystal's Rolls: Newsweek's Gallery Of Re-Touched Women

Heideprinzesschen (Heathland Princess) by Frit...
A little young, but, you never know...Image via Wikipedia

Read this and weep — or snicker. But don’t compare your butt, thighs, crow’s feet or cellulite to theirs. They don’t have any!

For any woman, and her daughter(s) or younger female friends, who looks at magazine photos of “perfect” faces and bodies and despairs, buck up. It’s all about the re-touching. Lots of bright lighting and some Botox and great make-up all help, but nothing can beat a techno-fix after the photos have been shot. Any woman who miserably compares her real-life body and skin to the fake flawlessness of the images shoved at her daily in every medium is asking for trouble: plastic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, dieting. Misery.

Trying to attain the literally unattainable means billions in profit for the manufacturers of fake boobs, cosmetic procedures and products, diet companies, gyms. Women trying to look “just like” the women shown to us in ads and editorial images are trying to scale a greasy pole. It simply won’t work.

I attended a social event last night and wondered who the hhhhhottie in the black sequined T-shirt, thigh-high boots and skinny jeans might be. She had honey blond hair and looked stunning. It was a woman I’ve known for many years, but who I met when she weighed — as she told me last night — 90 pounds more. She was always, one could tell, beautiful. Now she’s slim, confident and — as the French say, bien dans sa peau (literally “happy in her skin”) — as much for her pride in beating back her food-related demons as re-discovering the pleasure of easily dressing well and enjoying her corporeal self.

I asked how she did it: a full year of meal replacements (2 shakes, 2 energy bars and 1 meal a day) and re-thinking what food means to her. I  need to lose weight and find the endless drama of that tedious, boring, frustrating and sometimes just overwhelming on top of my many other priorities.

Hard work, discipline, self-awareness, she said, without using those words. The basic tools we all know, deep down, rarely change in this regard.

Not re-touching.