24 August, 2005

You Fat Bastard

Nashvillians are in a tizzy over this article which lists Tennessee as having the fifth-highest rate for obesity. Blake Wylie extrapolites a political philosophy from the data, while Sarah Moore draws her own conclusions.

I am fat. It's not a secret once you've seen me in person. (Sorry, you'll have to take my word for it. I don't generally allow my picture to be taken.) I have been on nearly every diet in the world. I am not lazy and I don't eat like a pig. I work out strenuously during the times when my body will allow me to. I go to McDonalds about once a month. If I had my way I'd be thin so that people wouldn't look at me with disgust when I unload my grocery cart and waiters would stop telling me that I've ordered too much food in their restaurant. I don't generally care what others think of me, because I don't have that much time. There are occasions, however, that I'd like to not be sneered at simply for existing.

Weight prejudice in this country seems to be escalating. People are using the new cudgle of 'health concern' to wield this fancy exclusionism. While they pretend to be the equivalent of a sweet grandma reminding you to take your sweater on a fall day, they are really disseminating the twin evils of classism and appearance prejudice. Overweight is presumed to be growing (ha!) problem, based on flawed and inflated statistics.
In most cases, this problem has been wholly manufactured in order to increase interference in the personal lives of free Americans.

In my own case, I was fat before the statistics changed. I'm just as fat now, but technically I'm fatter. Maybe now I'll spend my money on one of the diet companies that sponsors the hype.


At 1:21 PM, August 24, 2005, Anonymous Blake said...

I was kind of posting the link as an aside without really any political extrapolations.

However, you make an excellent point when you say that the obesity issue is going to be used as another reason to interfere "in the personal lives of free Americans." Bingo!

It won't be long before the "there ought to be a law" groups start getting the government to control what we eat and how much.

The nanny government only grows. Perhaps it's the government itself that needs to go on a diet.

At 2:16 PM, August 24, 2005, Blogger Aunt B said...

I think you're really onto something here with your recognition that this is a class issue and appearance prejudice that has been wrapped in "health" so that people (and governments) who have no business butting into one's business can feel free to.

I'm not as articulate as you about it, but I agree with you wholeheartedly.

At 4:28 PM, August 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 6'2" tall and, at one point, weighed 227 lbs. While not exactly svelte, I was amazed to discover that this put me into the "obese" category. Now, after having lost 27 of those pounds, I'm still technically "overweight". I won't be in the "allowable weight" category until I hit 195. Ultimately, I'd like to be 180-185.

All this to say that the current BMI tables are a joke. If you plug the height/weight of some pro atheletes into the tables (I'm thinking specifically NBA players), you get results that say our NBA starts are grossly obese, and that's just grossly untrue.

Oh, and what's my minimum healthy weight? According to my chart, I could weight 147 and still be healthy. Yeah, right.

At 4:29 PM, August 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was me above.


At 5:16 PM, August 24, 2005, Blogger Kat Coble said...


I don't see you at 147. Funnily enough, you and Tim are the same height, and about the same weight.

Tim, mr. Long Distance Cyclist rides about 300 miles a week and has thigh muscles the size of tree trunks. He's a big man stature-wise, but he is in NO WAY obese or even overweight.

The whole BMI thing is a joke. I'm still fat, but the BMI is a joke.

At 10:19 PM, August 24, 2005, Blogger Glen Dean said...

Good post Katherine. Excellent points.

At 10:25 PM, August 24, 2005, Anonymous Tim said...

Interesting. I'm 6'2" and about 200 lbs. as well and haven't been at my "ideal" weight/bmi of 185 lbs. since college - at which point, coincidentally, people used to ask me how my chemo treatments were going. At 37, I'm probably in the best shape of my life (even though I ride about half as many miles per week as my wife thinks I do), and while I'd love to drop another 10 - 15 pounds just for the performance improvement that it would produce in my riding, I'll confess that on most days I don't feel particularly obese or unhealthy. (FYI, at last checkup my "bad" cholesterol was a full two standard deviations below what is considered ideal for someone my age. My blood pressure averages about 102/65. My resting heart rate is in the low 50s. I work out - strenuously, for two to four hours at a time - at least four times a week. I miss about 1 day of work per year due to illness.)

Suffice it to say that I don't put a whole lot of stock in how the current concept of bmi is structured. Do I get what they're shooting for? Sure. It's a potentially good concept, but one that's been implemented abysmally. Beyond putting pressure on larger people who may be reasonably healthy, I think it also gives a false sense of healthiness to smaller people who are a long way from being fit. For every obese person in this country who presents a very visible potential health risk, I'd wager that there's at least one "skinny-fat" counterpart flying under the radar - i.e., someone who may be able to fit into an "acceptable" clothing size, but who is almost completely devoid of muscle tone, has a higher than ideal body fat percentage, has no cardiovascular fitness base and probably spikes on at least half of the major health risk factors on the books.

My recommendation? (Since everyone asked for it...) Let's shift the emphasis to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, reducing known risk factors and integrating regular exercise into our lives. No matter how much you weigh, being able to school a skinny person by riding a bike further, running up more stairs or swimming more laps has a funny way of shutting them up.

At 11:58 PM, August 24, 2005, Anonymous tom said...

There is an unrealistic expectation that everyone must be thin to be healthy. I have a friend who convinced himself he needed gastric bypass surgery.

He spent a small fortune on the procedure, missed weeks of work, and then spent another small fortune on plastic surgery to remove excess skin. He then was forced to file bankruptcy.

The one good thing is that my friend is now thin, but he's not yet to his ideal weight.

I think this illustrates that no body is perfect. Each person's chemistry and physiology should be safeguarded by the individual and his healthcare provider, not by some abstract ideal or God forbid 'government standards.'

If the body is a temple, maybe that's another reason for separation of church and state. : )

At 3:05 PM, August 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Senator Frist influenced the weight charts--he's really in to this prison camp look.

Word is, he has tried to get his staff to starve themselves too.


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