Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

'Free market' causes obesity?

Beware the headless fatty pic when clicking on the article, like usual. I haven't checked out the comments of course, but as usual proceed with caution.

Obesity more likely with 'free market' economies

Some of the points made are reasonable:

"Policies to reduce levels of obesity tend to focus on encouraging people to look after themselves, but this study suggests that obesity has larger social causes," said Avner Offer, a professor of economic history who led the study.

Then the correlative findings:

Offer's team looked at 11 wealthy countries and found that those with a liberal market regime -- with strong market incentives and relatively weak welfare states -- experienced one-third more obesity on average.

Comparing four "market-liberal" English-speaking countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia -- with seven relatively wealthy European countries that traditionally offer stronger social protection -- Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden -- the team found that economic insecurity is strongly linked to levels of obesity.

And then the specious hypothesis and outright wrong claims:

Countries with higher levels of job and income security were associated with lower levels of obesity, the researchers said.

"Basically, our hypothesis is that market-liberal reforms have stimulated competition in both the work environment and in what we consume, and this has undermined personal stability and security," Offer said in a statement about the findings.

He also argued that the onset and increase of large-scale obesity began during the 1980s, coinciding with the rise of market-liberalism in the English-speaking countries.

Actually, market-liberalism arose in the nineteenth century. It went into great decline in the war and postwar era, and then came back in some measure in the post-Carter Reaganomics era (though outlays for defense spiked during that time). But it was no new golden age of liberal economics: in general, the law of aging governments rarely deviates from increasing regulation, increasing control, increasing meddling, increasing services, increasing general dependency---a trend much more historically convincing than any kind of 30% correlation dredged up by the authors of this article.

In short, their economic assumptions, their attempt to tie in some kind of economic trend to 'growing' obesity levels (which we know were manufactured in part by changing BMI definitions from their adoption in the 1980s until 2000), lead me to believe that this is nothing more than a weak swipe at liberal economics by taking advantage of the Diet Season's weight obsession.

Here's concise history of the BMI, just in case you're interested. And here's a Flegal article (PDF) that goes into much greater detail, and even has a really handy chart.

But that's really beside the point. The article is about emotional instability and stress as the core driving impulse behind fatness. It also gives a nod to the fake 'fast-food shock' exemplified by scare-screeds like "Super Size Me." The population has gotten fatter with greater food security (about 15 lbs over the past 30 years), as it's gotten taller (about two inches in that same time period), healthier, and longer-lived. The idea that this more definite trend is rooted in economic insecurity is correlative, statistical-illogic BS.

If it was, we'd notice trends in fatness directly corresponding to times of greatest economic insecurity and the greatest domestic stress---war and recessions. It's just a guess since I don't have my hands on any charts, but I'm guessing if there's any size-related trend over time with respect to war and recession it's people getting thinner, not fatter.

Anecdotally---I come from a long line of fat people. Without exception (AFAIK), we lose our appetites in stressful situations. I know we're not outliers---I've heard of many others, including thin friends, who also lose their appetites during stress. My own husband lost 15 lbs the month we moved into our first house. An ex had chronic indigestion due to stress and had to carefully monitor his intake to make sure he was eating enough, as he was already underweight. The Mayo Clinic lists both overeating and undereating as signs of stress.

Based on what I've read all these years the difference in obesity rates has much more to do with distribution of genetic groups, which is another way the English-speaking countries are tied together. Economic insecurity and social stress is not by any stretch unique to relatively free markets. Blaming it on stress of the 'free market' is short-sighted, and reduces the complicated socioeconomic relationship to size to something simplistically meaningless.

This article is Diet Season incendiary crap meant to do little more than advance an agenda by taking advantage of a vulnerable population. It doesn't even touch upon the relationship between size and socioeconomic status, and if it did it would still ignore the elephant in the room---genetics---in its attempt to frame fatness as a social problem to be 'fixed.' It's time to take back our fat identities---we aren't problems, we aren't symptoms of a broken economic system, or a broken planet, or broken health, or a broken morality.

NOTE: Do not click on the links the last sentence unless you have at least 100,000 Sanity Watchers points.

Live My C.H.O.I.C.E. - LapBand Contest sponsored by Allergan

I read about this "contest" in an email from OSSG-gone_wrong (obesity surgery gone wrong support group). One of the group members got the following email:

Enter the The Live My Choice Contest Program (Ends December 14th)

To raise awareness of the challenges those 100 pounds or more overweight face and to highlight the critical need to ensure access to treatment, Allergan, Inc. has launched the Live My C.H.O.I.C.E. Contest Program to provide three individuals with a LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System procedure, performed by a certified LAP-BAND® System surgeon of their choice, and one year of follow-up care, compliments of Allergan, Inc. The contest program is a part of Allergan’s public advocacy campaign, launched in May 2010, called C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Health over Obesity Inspiring Change through Empowerment).

The contest ends December 14th. To qualify you must meet the clinical criteria for the LAP-BAND® System procedure: Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40; BMI of at least 35 with one or more serious comorbid conditions; or be at least 100 pounds over your ideal weight as determined by a physician. To enter the contest, submit a short essay or video at about how your weight has impacted your health and life, and why the LAP-BAND® System may be the tool to help you achieve your weight-loss goal. A family member or close friend may also enter the contest on a person’s behalf.

Individuals selected to receive a LAP-BAND® System procedure will publicly share their weight-loss journey in an effort to inspire others who are severely obese to reclaim their health and their lives. As part of this Contest Program, Allergan will provide all entrants the opportunity to receive free telephone consultations with a health educator who can provide one-on-one support, such as assistance in finding a local patient seminar, access to more information and resources regarding the LAP-BAND® System.

More information about the contest, including details on the rules and eligibility, can be accessed at

You can read more about this travesty of a contest here.

The contest is over, 3 "contestants" have been chosen to undergo this procedure and 12 people who have already had the LapBand have been chosen to go to Congress and tell their stories about their weight loss and to
be the voice for others to help acknowledgment of obesity as a disease, NOT a choice, and acceptance of all treatments, including weight-loss surgery.

Um, yeah, there's just so much wrong with this that I can't even begin to enumerate it all. When I first read this, I was sputtering with rage and just didn't have enough swear words in my vocabulary for Allergan (although I went through every one that I had and made up a few, I can tell you).

"Obesity" is not a disease, nor is it a "choice" for most people. So far, the treatments the medical and pharmaceutical communities have come up with have created many more problems than they've solved, and, I would venture to say, have probably killed more fat people than being fat alone has.

But promoting actual healthy lifestyles, without mutilating functional digestive systems or restricting calories so that people become thin at any cost, doesn't make billions of dollars for the medical/pharmaceutical communities.

Is the medical/pharmaceutical community so hard up for patient/insurance dollars that they have to resort to a travesty of a "contest" in order to bring in more patients? The real tragedy here is that people think they're winning something that is going to improve their health, when in reality, what they've "won" is another diet where they'll end up gaining back what they lost and maybe more, not to mention the possible/probable complications that will last a lifetime and will outlast their insurance coverage. Doesn't sound like much of a "win" to me.

And this bullshit of asking Congress to declare "obesity" a disease? Really, Allergan? I'm sorry, but even though I'm fat ("morbidly obese" to you), I'm not diseased, I don't need "treatment" from you that isn't going to work and where the failure is going to be blamed on me. I don't need your shame and blame, nor do any other fat people, we're doing just fine without you, thank you very much.

Lonie McMichael: Intro & hook's ideology of domination

My name is Lonie McMichael; I just graduated with a PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric. For my dissertation, I focused on the rhetoric surrounding the obesity epidemic including the rhetoric of Fat Acceptance. Many of you participated in either my online focus group or digital interviews, so I wanted to provide the community an overview of my work. Thanks to BFB for hosting this series of blog posts.

My area is rhetoric; rhetoric can be defined as persuasion. I tend to focus on persuasion through language. For my research, I used bell hooks’ ideology of domination as my theoretical focus. hooks says that Western society has a belief that some people are inferior and others are superior and that the seemingly inferior ones buy into the belief that they are inferior. In order to overcome the ideology, hooks says that those in the margin – the ones perceived as inferior – must be the first to resist the dominant ideals. She says that love is the solution. This is not the feeling love, but a force that fights dehumanization and seeks connection. Hooks says that both the dominated and the dominator must come together to overcome domination in the end.

Now, hooks is an African-American woman and writes from her own perspective. She intertwines her ideas about domination into her experience, and it’s not always clear which she is speaking of. That being the case, I had to skirt the line on comparing prejudices. At the same time, the primary question I asked throughout this work was, “why does our society consider some prejudices unacceptable while others are considered acceptable?” hooks says that allowing any prejudice to exist hurts all oppressed people, that all domination must stop. My research supports this assertion. By allowing fat prejudice to continue, we are actually allowing a number of other prejudices to continue including: sexism, racism, ageism and ablism.

So, for the next few weeks, I will show you what I found out about internalization, resistance and love in relation to the rhetoric of fat. Since I gleaned many of my ideas from what I learned in Fat Acceptance and the Fatosphere, much of this will be familiar; I just take it from the rhetorical perspective.

(BFB introduction and dissertation abstract here.)

Harriet Brown's 'Project Body Talk'

The amazing Harriet Brown has started Project Body Talk, inspired by the StoryCorps oral history project. 
According to the website:

Project BodyTalk is a safe place where people can share how they feel about their bodies and body image, their relationship with food and eating, and the cultural pressures that are so much a part of American life today.

We invite you to send us your commentaries—and to listen to other people’s. Record your story and submit it here. Learn about efforts around the country to spread body-positive messages and awareness. Start coming to terms with your body, whatever its size and shape, and see how that simple act can change your life.

I love this idea! Awhile back I was going to do a roundup of fat-related StoryCorps submissions, few that there were, but Harriet has literally created a body hub for these stories.

You can submit your story through the Contact Page. Here's how it works:
1) Record your story!
2) Download the release form and sign it (I'm assuming you have to sign and scan it back in)
3) Fill in your information on the Contact Page and upload both the signed form and your story.
4) Ta-da!

There are featured stories on the home page, but you can listen to them all right HERE.

I said it on Facebook, and I'll say it here: I <3 Harriet Brown. Srsly.

Presenting Lonie McMichael

Lonie McMichael is a graduate student in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University. She's been following BFB and the other Fatophere blogs since 2003 and has done a number of related fat-positive research projects, including an online focus group and digital interviews. She promised the participants that she would disseminate the information to the Fatosphere when she was finished, and now she's ready to present her work.

Over the next couple of months, BFB will be publishing weekly blog posts where Lonie McMichael will discuss her research. The first one will be posted this week.

Here's the abstract for her dissertation:

Our current solutions to the obesity epidemic are only making individuals less healthy in their pursuit for thinness while creating an environment of prejudice towards fat individuals. In response, a group of fat individuals are banding together in informal, online communities, which they call “the Fatosphere,” rejecting the belief that they must lose weight to be healthy, a proposition that fails 95% of the time, and embracing ideas such as Health At Every Size, a non-weight-centric health approach with much better results than dieting.

Using bell hooks’ ideology of domination as a theoretical basis, I examined these ideas through digital interviews of Fatosphere participants and a rhetorical analysis of Fatosphere blogs. In conclusion, I assert that fat individuals experience domination much as other oppressed groups with a significant exception: the belief that the majority of fat bodies can be permanently made thinner – a belief that has no scientific evidence backing it. This societal belief leads fat individuals to experience a particular bind – a Sisyphean bind – demanding that the individual succeed at a futile task, one that must be performed over and over again, before being considered worthy to receive what others are granted automatically.

Welcome to BFB's front page, Lonie!

Great Radio Ad for Non-Dieting

On the lighter side...

Longtime BFB member Big Liberty has posted a really cool radio ad for NOT going on a diet on her blog - and she invites all of us to make ads, too!

This is awesome and funny and is definitely worth a listen.

The 2010 Slim Chance Awards

Francis Berg has put together her annual "Slim Chance Awards."

I was going to make a remark about how these schemes may be silly, but at least they won't give you heart valve damage. But NO. Most of them are, in fact, dangerous. So today, we have crap weight loss methods from outside the medical establishment.

WORST CLAIM: Ultimate Cleanse
Ultimate Cleanse cashes in on a popular quack theme: the body must be detoxified regularly to get rid of wastes and toxins. An ideal scam, this notion sets up a problem that doesn't exist and puts forth a solution to snare the gullible. If it were true, people would not survive, as one FDA agent pointed out: the body is naturally self-cleaning. Aside from their basic silliness, cleansing programs are often high-risk, containing potent laxatives. Ultimate Cleanse combines cascara sagrada, a harsh laxative that in 2002 was banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs, in a mix of herbs and fibers said to produce “2-3 bowel movements per day, while sweeping, toning, and cleansing the digestive and eliminative system.” Supposedly it cleanses in five areas (bowel, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin) as well as bloodstream, cells and body tissues. An Arizona man who used Ultimate Cleanse is suing the maker and seller charging that it caused perforation of his colon requiring two operations; his surgeon believes the perforation was caused by cascara segrada. There is no proven safe or effective dose for cascara, derived from the bark of a buckthorn plant. Long-term use may lead to potassium depletion, blood in the urine, disturbed heart function, muscle weakness, finger clubbing and cachexia (extreme weight loss). Regular use is linked to increased risk of hepatitis and colorectal cancer. Though banned as a drug, cascara sells in dietary supplements through a legal loophole.

In a resurge in popularity of HCG injections among some practitioners and spas, this 1950s weight loss method has spawned excitement in the supplement field, as well. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is claimed to reset the hypothalamus, improve metabolism and mobilize fat stores. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting HCG treatment as a weight or fat loss strategy. In its herbal versions, HCG drops are placed under the tongue (5 drops times 6 times a day or 10 drops, 3 times). Advertisers claim, “You easily can lose 1-2 pounds per day safely! Shed Excess Fat … HCG resets your hypothalamus so that your weight loss is permanent!” “HCG will melt fat permanently while maintaining muscle tone.” HCG does all this, it is claimed, without exercise. The caveat: the program requires a semi-starvation diet of 500 calories a day, with attendant severe risks to long-term health and almost guaranteed weight rebound. Further, the HCG program often begins with a liquid fast detox period. Common short-term effects include fatigue, headache, mood swings, depression, confusion, dizziness and stomach pain.

Basic Research, marketer of bogus products, carries an extensive history of FTC warnings, charges, fines and on-going lawsuits against multiple products. Basic Research, also doing business as Carter-Reed Company, has been a plaintiff or defendant in more than 40 suits filed in federal court in the past five years. In 2006, the FTC ordered the company to pay $3 million on behalf of six companies and three principals. Together with one of these, Akävar , Basic Research faces a class-action suit based on new charges for violating that order. Most recently Basic Research is being sued for false advertising in marketing “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control” (Take Two Capsules Before Main Meals And You Lose Weight). Michaels, star and coach on the reality show, the Biggest Loser, gained a reputation as a credible fitness instructor before stumbling into the supplement quagmire, from which she now promotes her own Calorie Control, Fat Burner, Body Detox and Cleanse, and QuickStart Rapid Weight Loss System, marketing with Basic Research. ( ) Founded in 1992, based in Salt Lake City, Basic Research is listed as an international importer and wholesaler specializing in supplements, with an estimated annual income of $10.5 million.

With full page advertisements in daily newspapers, LipoLaser promoters promise: “Lose 3 ½ - 7 inches of fat in 3 weeks. … proven inches lost, without diet or exercise … the LipoLaser is the only non-diet, non-invasive, pain-free way to lose inches of fat ... all effortlessly and easily.” Credible studies are missing to show this works. Supposedly, shining the lighted device on a pocket of fat gives results “almost exactly the same as exercise” only instead of “hormones opening the fat cells with exercise, the Laser light opens the fat cells—right through your skin. The same stuff comes out of the fat cells.” So excess fat is released and the fat cells shrink, or so it is claimed. The FDA classifies the device as an infrared lamp rather than a laser, so likely it is harmless. Yet the price is hefty: $1497 (on special 50% reduction) up to $5000 for the typical program of nine one-hour sessions. An online diet review site rates the LipoLaser treatment negatively, along with a user’s report, “Young girls administer the treatment and do not give you any eye protection even though they have warnings on the walls that laser is in process. I have had no good results for my $4000 and I want my money back. This is one of the biggest scams out there.” A self-identified professional confessed that about 80% of the “guests” who completed their series were dissatisfied with results.

The Slim Chance awards are part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January. The Healthy Weight Network site has more information.

(This site may come across as a bit diet-y, but it's actually more of a HAES site using diet rhetoric to draw people in. Note that it never says "healthy weight = thin.")

Mediator: Redux/Fen-Phen à la France

Many of you may remember the American diet drug craze of the 1990s: Redux and the chemically related off-label Fen-Phen (Fenfluramine and Phentermine) drug combination. The use of Fen-Phen and Redux ended with a government ban in 1997, when heart valve damage began to appear in people being treated with the drugs. Eventually, it was found that up to a third of the approximately six million people who had used Redux or Fen-phen had heart valve damage, and people who took those drugs years ago are still developing it today.

Frankly, it is one of the most disgusting incidents in the history of pharmaceuticals and government regulation. They redefined large bodies as inherently diseased and used that as an excuse to medicate healthy people - and it resulted in death in some victims; permanent heart valve damage in many others.

Well, it turns out that something similar has been happening in France, for thirty years, subsidized by their public health care system. A dangerous diabetes drug, brand named "Mediator," was prescribed off-label for weight loss. For decades. And, it's killed... well, earlier articles say 500 and later ones say 2000, French people. Who knows how many people's health and quality of life have been negatively affected.

Mediator (benfluorex) is completely unrelated to Avandia. It's chemically related to fenfluramine (the fen in fen-phen) and works in the same way. This study found a relative risk of 21.4 (yes, 2,140% the normal risk) for heart valve disease after taking benfluorex, controlling for other factors.

The story has been covered by:

And, for some background on Fen-Phen and Redux:

Talking about the role of Shame...

A wise and thought provoking talk (suffering from a single unfortunate headless fattie).

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Shame, shame, shame

...or, whilst the experts continually insist that their concern over the alleged numbers of fat people is motivated by health, the language used in commenting on the latest obesity scare statistic stories suggests otherwise. There's our old friend Tam Fry, claiming that to be 'ashamed' by recent claims that one in five British 11-year olds are defined as obese. And there's that word again, in a report about the West Midlands supposedly being the fattest region of the most obese nation in Europe - a professor this time, bemoaning how he feels personally 'ashamed' of the data. As if we weren't expected to feel guilty enough over our size, now we also have 'experts' doing so on our behalf. I wonder if those working in other health-related fields use such emotive language in response to data regarding conditions which for whatever reason aren't viewed as personal moral failings?

Kids from fatter ethnic groups are also more active

(Via I'm Done With this Shit,)

PR Newswire has posted a press release from The American College of Sports Medicine: Study Sheds New Light on Childhood Obesity Epidemic. You can find the same press release on the ACSM web site, along with contact information for the study's authors. The study's abstract can be found on PubMed.

This study looks at average levels of activity for African American, Hispanic and white kids, for girls and boys, and for three different age groups. From the press release:

In comparing physical activity levels among American children, researchers discovered that the most overweight and obese ethnic groups are also some of the most active.

Of course, the scientists are shocked (SHOCKED) at this "paradox" and are looking for flaws in their methods to explain the unexpected results. O-kay.

“Contrary to our expectations, higher levels of physical activity were not associated with lower rates of obesity across the race and ethnic groups,” said Britni Belcher, M.P.H., the lead author of the study.
“This paradox may be accounted for by the fact that non-Hispanic white youth may spend more time in activities not captured well by accelerometry, such as swimming or bicycling,” said Donna Spruijt-Metz, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and senior author.

But then they do go on to acknowledge that obesity may not just be about laziness; they mention "general predisposition to obesity, socioeconomic status and cultural differences in behavior" (code for eating habits?)

Researchers suggest that general predisposition to obesity, socioeconomic status and cultural differences in behavior may play a role in the study’s findings.


“These differences could also be attributed to the higher socioeconomic status found in the non-Hispanic white youth because higher socioeconomic status has been related to lower risk of obesity.”

Upon reading the abstract, I noticed that kids who are classified as obese are, on average, slightly less active than kids whose weight is considered normal - they average 16 minutes a day less physical activity. This doesn't surprise me. Fat kids are bullied when they're in public doing active things, and they're not welcome in most school athletic programs. Of course, this is may actually be more true for fat white kids than for fat Hispanic and Black kids, who may not be as stigmatized or may begin to be stigmatized at higher weights. So, that's something the scientists might consider.

But what these findings really make me think about is the rhetoric about minorities and weight; the rhetoric that takes calories in/calories out as established fact and focuses on the mechanics of living in a city neighborhood that might not be too safe. "It's not safe for the children to play outside, so they sit and watch TV all the time" (or some variation on that) is the common wisdom. Well, apparently not so much.

And, if you generalize this to adults, it's really not surprising.

Some people are under the impression that living in a city is physically easy. When I say this, I'm picturing a thin, subdivision-dwelling suburbanite. They drive to work and back every day and stop at the gym a few times a week. If they need to buy eggs, they take the car. They attribute their thin-and-healthiness to their "active lifestyle."

Now I'm picturing someone who lives in a fourth floor walk-up and takes the bus to work (walking a distance on each side of the bus ride, of course) and walks to the store when they need something. Oh, and the job at the end of the bus ride? It involves cleaning, gardening, or walking around all day working retail or food service. But because the person doing this is fat, they're assumed to be inactive.

And why is this person fat while our not-as-active-as-they-think suburban friend is thin? Well, the press release for this study mentions general predisposition to obesity and socioeconomic status. I also wonder about stress, which is related to socioeconomic status. Is it possible that high stress environments make people's bodies want to build up their energy reserves? Just a thought.

Videos, Podcasts, Fat Links, Oh My!

A LOT of cool stuff is going on, so I thought I'd post some links!

First, a few videos!

Margitte, who runs the blog Riots Not Diets, has released a documentary on fat visibility based on the stories of two women. (Nudity/NSFW)

fat body (in)visible from Margitte Kristjansson on Vimeo.

Joy Nash is releasing some new videos, as well. This one is called The Terrarium Diet.

Now onto podcasts! Looks like fat podcasts are on the rise! I've even thought about doing one myself.

Notblueatall has launched her first podcast, a discussion/interview with yours truly about a multitude of fat things. It was so much fun to record this podcast!!! I even talk about how I started blogging here at BFB. So if you're wondering about the transition from the time of Paul McAleer or how Carrie and I met, tune in! (Strong language at times, I think.)

Atchka! has just posted a new podcast in his series called
On Hold where he talks with Ellyn Satter.

And of course, Marianne and Lesley are still
Fatcast-ing it!

What awesome links have you come across this week? Put em in the comments!!

Not-bad article in the Chicago Tribune

An article in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, "Doctors and nurses' weight biases harm overweight patients," discusses how weight bias in the medical community can damage fat people's health.

Plus, it features a headless fattie in a dramatic belly-closeup! I have to say, that goes a long way toward spoiling the good intent of the article for me. It's as if the editors are deliberately adding a dig at fat people to an article that talks about how harmful that sort of thing is, like "ha, ha, just kidding. We all know that the practice of stigmatizing fat people is above reproach!" At least she's wearing a nice outfit that fits her.

Oh - and the first comment (and this is good) is some guy saying "I lost 14 pounds - 10% of my weight! - by eating a healthier diet and exercising and therefore, all it takes to keep off 100 pounds is a healthy lifestyle!" Ah, yeah. Sure, buddy. THAT'S THE SIZE OF A TYPICAL HAES SIDE-EFFECT WEIGHT LOSS, DUDE. If someone started out weighing 300 pounds, improved their diet and started exercising, and ended up at 286 (-14 pounds) or even 270 (-10% of their weight), then something tells me this guy wouldn't be trumpeting his approval. I don't think he'd notice the difference. Post-10% weigh loss, this would just be another fat person to him, right?

Of course, he probably believes that heavier people eat more and exercise less than he used to. I, on the other hand, wouldn't make that assumption. But wow - it's surprising how common this type of comment is, and it is truly laughable.

Call for Body Positive Artists, Speakers and Crafters!‏

Check this out, BFBers!!

What: BODYSLAM! Poetry Jam & Story Telling
Where: The Trumbullplex, 4210 Trumbull St., Detroit, MI, 48208
When: February 19th, 2011 6-11pm
Love Your Body Detroit will be holding its first ever fundraiser and we
need your help to make it a huge success! We are looking for speakers for
our main show a poetry jam and story telling session that will be happening
on the main stage.

Poetry / Stories can be related to but are not limited by,
• Fat phobia / hatred
• Ethnic or racial diversity
• Appearance based oppression
• Eating Disorders
• Body Image
Basically anything that will make us think critically about our bodies or
how it feels to live in yours! Submissions should be at a maximum 10
minutes in length and emailed in a word document to the address below.
Please also include your name, contact information, and a short personal

Artists or vendors:
We are also looking for body positive artists / craft vendors whose work
shows size, racial or ethnic diversity through any form of media.
Please send the following in a word document,
• Name / Business
• Contact Info
• Kind of Work / Products you sell
• Links to examples of your work
**Crafters who make clothing and wish to participate should make sure their
clothing sizes are just as diverse as the people in attendance. Also vendor
fees will be on a donation basis only, if you wish to give we will love you
for it!

Participant Submission Deadline: 1/20/11
Submit Application to:

I hope some of you can participate...what a cool idea!

Support Your Local Badass Fatass

If you're in the Bay Area and like to support businesses that promote fat liberation, hit up

Carrot's Coffee and Tea
in San Bruno.*

This cafe, run by the super-rad fatty Notblueatall, has organic and gluten-free offerings...and I hear she makes a mean panini.

Earlier this year, Notblueatall celebrated Love Your Body Day in her cafe, and from the beginning has made a conscious effort to encourage her customers to eat without guilt and body shame, and to educate themselves about food issues. She has even started a Fat Meetup at the cafe, bolstering fat community in the area.

Carrots, Coffee and Tea

So if you like supporting local businesses--all year long, but especially this time of year--and you support fat liberation....what are you waiting for!  Tell your friends! Like the cafe Facebook page! Repost!
Have a craft meetup or a fat meetup there! Or a fat craft meetup!

Carrot’s Coffee & Tea is located at:

440 San Mateo Ave

San Bruno, CA 94066

Phone: 650-871-2725

Mon: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Wed: Fri: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Sat:: 9:00 am - 2:00 am

*Bloggers get pummeled with e-mails from random people all the time who want their product promoted, just so they can get the webspace and advertisement. Notblueatall has never asked me to promote her cafe on BFB. I do it not only because I consider her a friend, but because she's a badass, a small business owner, and she's fighting the good fat fight every day.

FDA Panel recommends lowering BMI requirements for lap band

A few days ago, AndyJo wrote a piece on a recent attempt to lower the FDA's BMI requirement for lapbands.

Well, it succeeded (thanks for the tip-off, AndyJo). The New York Times has published an article: Panel Votes to Expand Surgery for Less Obese.

Now, lapbands are likely to be approved for people with BMIs of 35-40 who have no health problems and for people with BMIs between 30 and 35 who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or other health problems that correlate to high BMIs. From the NYT story:

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week showed that women with a B.M.I. of 30 to 35 had a 44 percent higher risk of death than women of normal weight, which is a B.M.I. under 25.

(Of course, this is the data dredge discussed in the last BFB post.)

Now men and women with BMIs under 40 may have a new way to increase their risk of death - the lapband!

Now they're saying that average BMIs lead to early death

There are two fat and health items in the news right now.

The first - the request from lap band manufacturers to the FDA to lower the BMI where lapbands are allowed - was covered by AndyJo in the previous post.

Another study, published by New England Journal of Medicine with Amy Berrington de Gonzalez as the first author, is being reported on in articles such as ABC New's "Higher Body Mass Index Linked to Greater Mortality Risk" and touted as "proof" that people in the 25-30 BMI ("overweight") and the 30-35 BMI (obesity type one) categories are at increased risk of death because of their weight. This study is a data dredge, that is, it's built on data from older studies that could have been cherry-picked to get the desired results. It's obviously meant to refute Katherine Flegal's 2005 study and a recent Canadian government study, both based on population-level mortality statistics and both of which indicate that people in the the 25-35 BMI range have an average or above average life expectancy.

The flaws in the new de Gonzalez study? Well, I haven't read it myself, but I'm hearing from medical professionals who have read it that it doesn't control for level of physical activity - or health insurance status (!!). It's interesting that it was published shortly before this request to expand the market for lapbands. Lucky for the lap band manufacturers, eh?

There's a great post on both studies on Suethsayings: Push for weight loss surgery even if you have a lower BMI follows study about obesity.

Health and science reporters? If any of you are reading this, please look at the quality of the research before suggesting that a data dredge invalidates large, comprehensive and well designed studies like "BMI and mortality: results from a national longitudinal study of Canadian adults" (Orpana et al, 2009) and "Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity." (Flegal et al, 2005)

There is nothing they will not do to make a buck...

From my home town paper today: Obesity Surgery May Become Option for Many More.

Allergan is petitioning the FDA to have the BMI at which the lap-band is permitted reduced so that people who do not currently meet the thresholds will meet them. Translation -- more customers. Apparently, sales are falling during this recession.

The article has a pretty good mix of some physicians saying -- "hey, before we start operating on millions of people don't we want to know this is safe?" and bariatric surgeons (themselves!) bringing up the issue of later deaths due to the lap band being under-reported. There is also shilling of the band by some who are trying to convince us it's great for reducing your cholesterol, diabetes... what ails you, basically. It does have some good mentions of side-effects and how people have the band removed because of them. BTW -- 70% of people who receive a band experience pain and vomiting. Show of hands -- who would like to barf and have a stomach ache all day long? Thought so. Me either.

The case they show is a woman who, currently at 5'6" and 175 lbs wants a band. The story is not detailed. They don't disclose dieting history, activity level or anything like that. She was fatter, she lost weight, still wants a band.

Let's see what the comments look like if they put it up on the Well blog or if they open comments on the article or the blog. It may become "popcorn time". Lots of trolls, lively discussion (not all of it erudite - alas), and verbal fisticuffs. For those of you who like pounding trolls, the Well blog is a great place to do it.

Anyway, not a bad article about a HORRIBLE idea. Let's see what comes of it.

--Andy Jo--

Headless Fatties, Our Modern Folk Devils

Trigger Warning: Headless Fatties and Toxic News Articles

The identification of folk devils may reflect the efforts of powerful institutions to displace social anxieties


We've all seen the headless fat people that are used to illustrate news articles and segments on T.V. They're everywhere. These photos and videos often appear to have been taken in public, without the subjects' permission. They usually accompany articles with alarmist headlines. They've been around for a long time. I can remember cringing at the sight of them back in the '80s, when I was a teenager.

Their very existence is intimidating. "If I go out, will someone film or photograph me without my knowledge, and will I see my body on television or in the newspaper, used as an example of gluttony, sloth or disease, obviously meant solicit disgust and disapproval?"

Objectifying? Dehumanizing? To the nth degree.

This is nasty stuff. I hesitate to link to these pictures on BFB, because I find them morally repugnant. But, these are the images that are used to fuel the "obesity epidemic" moral panic, and I think we should examine them.

Here's a highly unscientific sampling. I'll link the headlines to the articles.

1. Reuters: Obesity costs US health system $147 billion: study
2. Herald, Scotland: Cost of obesity could reach £3bn a year and hurt economic growth
3. Evening TImes, Scotand: Gastric band ops could help beat obesity epidemic
4. Daily Mail: Obesity 'causes 19,000 cancer cases every year'
5. Washington Post: Rate of adult obesity climbs in 28 states
6. BBC News: Obese teenagers 'show signs of heart disease'
7. Time Magazine: How Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Obesity
8. Daily Mail: Obese? That's because you eat too much, says top doctor
9. Telegraph: Obesity linked to cancer in women
10. MSN: Fats mix and obesity linked: study

There are a lot of observations that can be made about these. My little roundup of some common features:

70% appear to be taken without permission (all women, except one is unclear)
30% appear to be stock photography (all men)
Most appear to have a 40+ BMI
Most are wearing clothing that is super-casual, too small, or both

The percentage of ultra-casual and ill-fitting clothing is striking, although the woman in the MSN article, uniquely, is wearing a lovely dress that fits her well. Everyone else dresses in a way that would imply to thin people (to whom the lack of availability of nice clothes in large sizes may not spring immediately to mind) that they're indifferent to their appearance or unaware that they've gained weight. I think this is meant to imply that they have LET THEMSELVES GO, my friends. Oh, the terrible lack of discipline and self consciousness. Our civilization is surely in decline. /sarcasm

We're obviously meant to find large bellies objectionable. Occasionally, images of people with big butts are used as well. Also, while approximately 33% of Americans (for example) are classified as obese by BMI, only 6% of Americans have a BMI of 40 or over; over 80% of obese Americans have a BMI of 30-40. A person with a BMI of 40+ isn't representative of what "obesity" usually looks like, yet very fat people are over-represented in headless fattydom. I'd say that a pretty significant percentage of the people shown here have BMIs over 50, which would make them statistical outliers. Perhaps this is supposed to reassure the common, garden variety person whose BMI is in the obese-type-one (BMI 30-35) or two (BMI 35-40) range that the article isn't really about him or her, because he/she is not that fat? Or perhaps, it's meant to reassure thin, middle class people that the 33% of Americans who are obese aren't part of their community or social group? Because, if these obese people are friends and colleagues that they know to have reasonable habits, then how can they hold them in contempt and view them with disgust? How can they transfer the guilt they feel about their own over-consumption - their MacMansions and their SUVs - onto the bodies of others? How can they make the tragic and compelling story of America's/the West's decadence and immorality not about themselves?

The other thing that really struck me about this - something I'd never noticed before - was the difference in how men and woman are treated. I did additional image searches, and it was borne out. Women are usually photographed in public, without their knowledge or permission. I'd say that this reflects the idea we have that women's bodies are public property, and it's a form of body policing.

That woman on the left in the Telegraph article; the one with the baby carriage? That's roughly what I look like from the back in sweats. Jesus. They even fit her and look okay. But there she is, Ms. "Obesity Linked To Cancer in Women." That's what happens when you let your guard down and wear stretchy clothes in public. Is that a water bottle in her friend's hand? Are they out walking for exercise? Quite possibly, and this is what happens!

Our bodies aren't disgusting. However, using them in this way is. How many fat women are afraid to be seen on the street in exercise clothes because of this type of thing? Am I the only one?

On the other hand, I don't want to imply that what they do to the men is any less messed up. Most of the images of men appear to be stock photography, and their bellies are practically fetishized. They've got measuring tapes wrapped around their exposed stomachs; belts that won't fasten. Shirts off, or with buttons popping. Exposed upper bodies seem to be almost a requirement. The media is obsessed with fat men's round bellies and moobs. Why is this so striking? Too feminine-looking, perhaps? An echo of a pregnant woman's figure? Softness where the ideal™ is a rock-hard six pack? And why stock photography rather than candid beach shots, or whatever?

I wonder if headless fatties - the ones that presumably haven't signed releases - have any legal recourse.

Note: The phrase "headless fatties" was first used to describe these images by Charlotte Cooper.

Kiss-in Makes the News

This just came to my attention, but the Boston Phoenix published an article a few weeks ago called Rad Fatty Stonewall, discussing the fat activist reaction to Maura Kelly's offensive Marie Claire article, including the kiss-in publicized on BFB (and in other places, too). Cheers!

© 2000-2018 Big Fat Blog and its authors, all rights reserved. Big Fat Blog, Big Fat Facts, and Big Fat Index are our trademarks.