Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dying to Be Thin Vs. The Freedom to be Fat

     Last week, while watching The Colbert Report, a professor at Dickinson University, Amy Farrell, discussed her 2009 book, Fat Shame, and the effects of stigma on fat people in America and how that stigma lends to their being overweight.
     So, after watching her on Colbert I was not convinced. She did not address the growing epidemic of obesity in America and the health issues of being obese at all. In fact, the closest she got to a scientific discussion on this topic was saying the health problems were more severe for someone that is underweight than someone that is overweight. In both instances, it just depends. My best friend could be considered "underweight", but she is an active dancer, is probably more muscular than I am, and eats healthy and hearty meals. However, her BMI would consider her to be "underweight". I have also seen people who are just slightly overweight (10 lbs - 4.54kg) who have been able to keep their cholesterol levels at proper numbers and blood pressure in the safe range, etc. What's my point? Professor Farrell did not convince me to a) read her book and b) think that it was okay to be supportive of fat people being sedentary and doing nothing for their health (this was my first impression of her Colbert interview).
     My second problem with Farrell's position based off the Colbert interview was that the fat issue is a "civil rights issue". Colbert summed up my problem with her statement pretty well by saying that a black man can not go to the gym and work off his blackness just as I cannot go to the gym and work of my vagina (although somedays after a half hour of stationary bike my vagina would disagree).
     I decided to get a little more information on Farrell's position and read her research paper simply titled "Fat Studies". In her paper, she talks about the tendency in America to place blame on the fat person and not those around the fat person. She says possibly fat people would have fewer problems if they faced less stigma not only in society, but in their doctor's offices. The stigma she refers to is that fat people are lazy, gluttonous, greedy and have no self control. Now, I don't want to discuss all of the topics she brought up, but she makes very good points and I strongly encourage reading her article here. There is much more research in this article however she still fails to discuss the unavoidable health issues that face fat and obese people in America.
     I took a look at some websites and grabbed some stats that Farrell seemed to be avoiding in her rhetoric. According some sites, in 2004, obesity was named the number one health risk facing America. Obesity results in 400,000 deaths per year and costs the national economy nearly $122.9 mil. per year (treating obesity is apparently very expensive). Obesity is caused by many reasons. Most commonly by consuming more calories than your body uses, living a sedentary life or both. There are also genetic factors at hand. Some people have slow metabolism, hereditary hormonal problems and internal body disfunction. Also, certain races are more likely to be obese than others. For example, Asians statistically have less obesity than other white non-hispanics. Obesity is most common in African Americans, followed by Hispanic Americans, followed by Caucasian Americans. Could these race and obesity correlations have dietary explanations? Absolutely.
     So what's the point I'm trying to make here? I think there is a mean between where Farrell stands and where doctors and those who are "stigmatizing" against fat people stand. Certainly, making fat people feel uncomfortable and insignificant about their weight does not make them any healthier or any skinnier. The main point we should focus on from Farrell's dissertation is that twig thin does not need to be the norm and people can be beautiful at any weight. Plus size models should actually be plus sized, but that is a whole other rant. However, just because someone has written a book saying that being overweight is essentially okay, does not give people the excuse to sit on their butt and eat blocks of cheese like they are sandwiches. I do not care what Amy Farrell says, but I know from my experience of being in different areas in America that lifestyle choices make a difference on your weight.
     When I was in New York City last spring I saw one obese person and possibly two dozen overweight people. All of these people were tourists (they displayed all the tell tale signs). The people in New York (Manhattan) were pretty much of a healthy weight and my best explanation of this is because they walk: pretty much everywhere. Sure, there is the subway ride to and there and possibly a cab ride, but walking or biking is the primary mode of transport. Even while I was in New York I lost five pounds.
     Simple changes such as walking daily and making small changes in your diet can make an incredible difference in not only your weight but your life and energy. Start small. Take a walk around the block and each week increase it a little bit. If you start too big you will become discouraged and quit. This is a big problem that faces people who are trying to meet weight loss goals and maintain them. Also, changing your diet to gluten free can make immense effects on your weight. It is very simple to go gluten free with very little difference and there is virtually no difference in taste. It is better for your blood and your body will love you for it! Now I must clarify that it is not the lack of gluten that makes you loose weight, it is the restrictions on certain foods such as deep fried foods, certain deserts etc. It's a great diet option that I do believe I will be switching to this June to help keep my energy up while working at a children's theatre camp.
     So, what are your guys' thoughts? Do you think society is to blame for obesity in America or do you think blame lies solely with the person? What about other countries that do not have such a problem with obesity? Why do you think America seems to have such a problem with rising weight? Remember to keep comments pointed and do not insult someone for their opinions and tell them to die or go to hell for them, etc. I want to hear from my readers and I want to hear your opinions! Feel free to contradict me! I'm just now learning about fat studies and it fascinates me. I'm dying to learn more and hear from YOU!


renarockaroo said...

I think something to be added here would be self esteem. What all of this boils down to is this: You have to love your body. If you love your body you'll take care of your body. If you take care of your body then you're the perfect weight whatever way you may be. Some people are genetically prone to be overweight, SO WHAT? Being overweight isn't a crime. Being lazy and not taking care of your self is. Have some self worth and confidence and in turn you will help yourself be the best version of yourself you can be.

jewel said...

That's a great point. I think it is totally possible to have self esteem at any weight and it's all about what you put into your life and that is what will come out of it. Even if you are genetically prone to being overweight, it has been proven that if you work out to your ability and eat healthier, not only do you feel better and have more energy but your self esteem increases exponentially (Amy Farrell talks about that in her paper).

Anonymous said...

I don't know you at all, and I just stumbled on your blog the other day. I like a lot of what you have to say, but you have reiterated the most damaging misconception about going gluten free that there is. As someone who MUST be 100% gluten free or suffer the intense health consequences, I will tell you that it is not simple in any way. It is insanely hard to avoid all gluten, it requires an immensely different lifestyle. Going half way gluten free, which I'm sure is what you meant, means not eating bread or a couple other carby things. Going all the way gluten free means never again eating something that you did not cook yourself, and never using a toaster that has ever had gluten-y bread in it again, or facing the consequences. Gluten is in medicines, vitamin supplements, salad dressings, spice mixes, cereals, lunch meats, artificial vanilla flavoring, canned soup, and basically anything else that comes prepackaged. I understand you didn't mean any harm by your statement, but that misconception is damaging to people who need to be truly gluten free.

jewel said...

Thank you so much for your input! I had never heard this type of response from someone I'd talked to that was on a truly gluten free diet, so I really appreciate the alternative point of view on the subject. I can definitely see how the difference between fully and partially gluten free is extremely different and how the two could be misunderstood, which clearly I was not familiar with when I wrote this. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the other things I write. Feel free to always leave a response!