The continued failure of fat people prevention

If fat people were preventable, why are there so many fat people?

Its notable that anti-fat crusading celebrity chefs have shifted to talking about "preventing" fat people. Its a tacit admission that there is no safe, reliable way to make a fat person into a not-fat person. Which in the minds of fat-haters just increases the imperative to prevent us. Stop us before we fat! Not that this relieves any stigmatization of actual fat people as they focus on the potentially fat.

If anything, it makes it much worse as we're now a cautionary tale complete with an utterly made-up statistic of fat people costing "$10,273,973 per hour". Imagine if that song from from Rent had a chorus of "How about... the supposed economic impact of the continued existence of fat people." As a Shakesville commenter notes, this highly specific number is clearly derived from a far less specific $90 billion a year number. Basically, if you take $90 billion and divide it by the number of hours in a year (8,760), and then round up to the nearest whole dollar, you get their figure. They took a broad statistical estimate (prone to all of the usual manipulations that come with estimates based on assumptions which presuppose what you want to believe) and broke it down to the hour to make it seem more authoritative.

Still, we get back to the essential question here, if fat bodies can be prevented, why are the so many fat bodies to use as cautionary examples? Why has Jamie Oliver and those who have come before him failed so triumphantly to prevent fat people? The prevention and elimination of fat bodies has been a medical imperative for decades. Stigmatization of fat bodies is enforced through massive amounts of social shaming from family and peers and authoritative shaming from medical professionals. If fat people were preventable, everything ever done by those trying to prevent them has been a spectacular failure.

In his petition, Jaime Oliver says we must "demand better" from our UN Representative. I'm not sure what he thinks better will be exactly. He's already gotten the whole structure of our society behind him. Its a rather massive degree of entitlement for people who already run the world to be demanding more. But such is thin privilege.

He isn't wrong that we need to demand better, though. But who we need to demand it from are Oliver and his cronies. We need to demand better from every self-appointed "obesity" expert who perpetuates shame and stigmatization in the name of failed policies. We need to demand better than treatments that have never been shown to work and prevention that has never been shown to be effective. Fat people must demand better. Better health care. More respect. Less discrimination.

You're damn right, Jamie Oliver, that we should demand better. Better than you. Better than self-promotional marketing campaigns that will do far more the elevate the global brand of a celebrity chef than improve the life of one fat person, much less make anyone thinner. We need to demand options to improve our health and well-being that are not fixated on making our fat bodies not fat. We need to demand that health stop being an issue of right or wrong, good or bad. We need to stop shaming people for their health concerns and valorizing those who do "right". We need to stop the endless repetition of failed directives and stop predicating medical treatment and medicinal shaming on the size and shape of our bodies. Fat people deserve better. We demand better.


Anonymous said...

Yes, exactly!


Anonymous said...

Wow! That final paragraph is SO good...I think I need a cigarette.

Hazel Stone said...

Typo, need to add an "up":

"If anything, it makes it much worse as we're now a cautionary tale complete with an utterly made [UP] statistic of fat people costing "$10,273,973 per hour"."

Anonymous said...

I have the urge to scream like a crazed fangirl...

I agree with the Anonymous cigarette comment. That was absolutely right up there among the most satisfying paragraphs I have ever read. Have I mentioned that I love you?

I DETEST when they talk about the supposed costs of fat people. Absolutely ludicrous. Oh yes, let's just forget how much money our country spends on eating disorders, complications from diets and plastic surgery, sports injuries etc. etc. etc. Get your torch and pitchforks because OMGDEATHFAT is going to get us!!! ...*sigh*

The day they tell a kid he can't get on a skateboard or bmx bike because he's going to break his arm and cost the taxpayers money is the day they can tell me what size MY body can be!!!

Arkveveen said...

This is definitely something I agree with wholeheartedly.

I feel that they continue with their crusade to 'prevent' fat people because they have no other purpose in life. This crusade gives them 'purpose', and without purpose they are nothing. Jamie Oliver, however, could of been a much loved chef, but instead he recieves the scorn of fat acceptance activists everywhere! But, too many people believe they have to sugar coat their lives with a 'code of goodness' by pretending to mean well or pretend to want to help people. Without this, they feel morally bankrupt, and without purpose.

Keep up the excellent blog posts. I look up to your writings!

Anonymous said...

re: last paragraph

The very definition of "improvement" which you call for requires there to be "better" and "worse" states of being.

Debunking and ignoring bad science is good. But bodies aren't built and powered by magical progressive fairy dust. That existing research hasn't sufficiently uncovered the underlying mechanisms now producing record obesity numbers means we need more legit research, not just less celebrities touting bad research.

Whether the fundamental reasons turn out to be in the diet of the person becoming fat, in the diet of the parents, or chemicals absorbed from elsewhere, in the long term we can certainly prevent most obesity if we want to.

Brian said...

Options to improve one's health do not necessitate moralizing against those who do not take those measures. That is why we need to move past simplistic good vs. bad. What fat people need are the options that are being denied them by those who simply demand our bodies stop being so fat.

You want to imagine yourself as some kind of moderate, 9/5/11 Anon, but by all means let me disabuse you of those notions. Your entire thinking is based on an assumption that fat people are wrong. You want to belittle others for relying on "Magical progressive fairy dust" while taking no account for your own magical assumptions. You pronounce fat as something that needs to be fixed. That is already a deeply reactionary proposition. You want to flatter yourself by insisting on some sort of magically legit and utterly non-existant research needed to prove you right, but that is quite the extremist perspective. You want us all to act on an assumption while you search for evidence to prove yourself right? You rely on some magical fat hating fairy dust to insist that fat people are preventable in total absence of any evidence that this is the case. You refuse to see that you have ruled the discussion of fat people for decades upon decades. You have failed and yet you still flail about refusing to own up to your failure, preferring to project onto others who have have failed to prove you right.

Fat people demand better than the more of the same they offered by bigots like you. Bigots who want to hide away in the comfort of privilege and entitlement to cloak their hatred into something more socially conventional. Trillions of dollars have been spent trying to prove you right, trying to eliminate fat people, stigmatizing and shaming them and yet we are still here. We demand that we stop wild goose chases in the name of what you assume must be and that our needs and bodies be respected NOW, not whenever they earn your respect.

Any further comments propagating hatred towards fat people, no matter how masked in entitled bullshit, gets removed. You have a society to peddle that garbage. I have no obligation to offer comfort to the already comforted.

Brian said...

Again, this is not a place for fat bigotry to feel comforted and safe. Declaring fat bodies to be preventable is shaming and stigmatizing and it is wrong. It is a completely unsupported assertion that serves to shame and stigmatize fat people. I get that you don't think there is anything wrong with this, but I have absolutely no obligation to honor your misconceptions. Read the post before this one, about how bigotry doesn't always announce itself. You may not be announcing your prejudices, but as you demean others for relying on "magic" while making groundless assertions yourself, your prejudices are very much there for us to see. And they are not welcome here.

anna said...

Not exactly related to your post, but I just found out there's a new children's book on sale on amazon. It's called: " Maggie goes on a Diet" . I am horrified. The cover alone is abusive.

Brian said...

I had seen that Anna. I'm actually going to do a blog post soon on an art project of sorts I've been doing as a reaction to the Maggie book. Basically, I'm recreating the book cover for more body positive messages. I've done 5 so far. The most recent one is...


And there are links to the earlier sequels.

Demandra said...

BOOYAH! I couldn't possibly love this more.

As a side note, I haven't seen this in awhile, but didn't we all learn about a decade ago that the "obesity" epidemic was an overnight phenom (quite literally) that manifested as a result of insurance companies changing height/weight charts to better suit their need for higher profit margins? I don't know why we stopped talking about that little fact, but it's a nice one to note when folks start clamoring about the "alarming" rise in obesity rates. As in, I'll show you increasing rates of obesity via a tweak in numbers, not an actual real expansion (no pun intended) of fat folk.

But again, I loved this. Jamie Oliver is just another in a long line of exploitative tools.

Five Hundred Pound Peep said...

Until they find something that actually works, all the stuff about "eating healthy" and dieting is hot air.

I wrote this about Jaime Oliver.


Jaime Oliver Mr. Out of Touch, who probably thinks all of West Virginia can go to whole Foods and load up the grocery carts and that everyone has a lavish garden to grow endlessly sprouting seeds. His lack of realism in America and refusing to face economic issues, really bothered me when I watched his show.

I do believe there IS an obesity epidemic that is where we part ways but it is not the fault of the fat it is imposed from other factors, it is also being used for an insidious agendas.

I tire of being told it's all under my control.


Brian said...

I'm not interested in any discussion about how to more properly stigmatize fat people, Peep. Issues of how economic disparities impact availability of food choices are worth discussing, but not in the prism of stigmatizing fat people. In this space, you are asked to refrain from discussing fatness as something for which blame must be assigned. Its just another means of stigmatizing fat people and that is not welcome here in any form.

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