Streams

Fat Acceptance

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sondra Solovay and Esther Rothblum, co-editors of The Fat Studies Reader, say we need to stop obsessing about weight--and start accepting fat people.

Guests:

Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay

Comments [117]

Gil Rose from Queens

If I gain back just 20lbs. my obstructive sleep apnea comes back. But at 5'9" at 165 and 15% body fat it is gone, according to my last polysomnogram (sleep study). No CPAP to wear at night, no appliance to wear, no surgery...
About 8% of Americans now have sleep apnea! And obesity is one factor that will increase your chances of getting it. FAT BUILDS UP IN YOUR AIR PASSAGE WAY JUST AS IT DOES ALL OVER YOUR BODY! Sleep apnea increases your chances of diabeties and heart disease. So don't tell me that being fat is alrightl.

Aug. 06 2009 07:43 PM
fred

well, they are mistaken on fat being inevitable. even fat people have to obey the laws of physics. fat doesn't just pop into existence out of the ether after all.

i remember one british documentary that followed some fat people who claimed they ate as much as their thin friends. they followed them through the day with hidden cameras and stuff, in the end they showed that the fat just don't realize how much they snack and eat with larger portions, they just don't remember. so its not that the fat comes from no where, some people are clearly just eating more.

as for the rest of it, i found it rather dangerous political correctness adding disinformation to our already rampant health issues that come from fat.

Aug. 06 2009 06:37 AM
Claire from NYC

I'm basically thin, but right now I'm on Weight Watchers for 10 days in order to lose 2 pounds that I've gradually gained. During this 10-day program, I'm writing down everything I eat, and I'm following the points system religiously. It's kind of fun.

No, I am not "anorexic" or "obsessed" with dieting... It certainly is a focus, however. I'm a mature adult who is determined not to get fat. Like almost every other THIN adult I know, among my family and circle of friends, I try to eat small amounts, I weigh myself regularly, and I periodically go on short diets.

The fat people I know all tend to overeat... For example, ordering a big, heavy entree at a restaurant and eating the entire thing at a fast pace. This is the way a 10 year-old eats who hasn't learned self-control and pacing. I really think it's just a habit that these fat people got locked into, from the time they were kids. They're so used to pigging out that they can't step back from it.

Aug. 05 2009 05:54 PM
zac z from new york

An example of cultural politics run amok! This is what it sounds like when so-called progressive academics hide behind identity politics to avoid a deeper social/political/cultural critique. The professors may think themselves radical, but it was Brian's question that was truly the critical issue: doesn't defending fat lifestyles by denying the behavioral component to fatness actually HINDER progressive political goals such as universal access to fresh food and preventative medical care?

Would it be possible to arrange a follow-up conversation between the professors and Michael Pollan on the political, cultural and social implications of this "fat studies" movement?

Aug. 05 2009 03:38 PM
Beck from Manhattan

Boy, nothing brings out the screeching righteousness of New Yorkers like the topic of food and the body --- all this blathering in defense of wholesome behavior is annoying, as if nothing else matters. I do not struggle with my weight but have loved people who do, and after reading this column of judgment, much of it quite strident, my heart goes out to all the fat ones among us. I wish you the best.

Aug. 05 2009 05:43 AM
gaetano catelli from manhattan

Brian, this dog won't hunt.

[Emily from Brooklyn, do people who aren't "in this country" want tough, difficult answers?]

Aug. 05 2009 12:01 AM
Bruce Egert from Hackensack NJ

Guests made little sense. Instead of talking about their topic they insinuated that those who would suggest that being heavy is bad are not perfectly correct.

This was a story that should be aired on April 1st.

Aug. 04 2009 03:53 PM
Lee

"Black" was actually a term that Black people came up with to replace "Negro" and "Colored". They did not 'reclaim' it in the same way that "queer" was reclaimed by gay people.

Anyway, the fat acceptance movement seems wrongheaded. Normalizing obesity is wrong. It not only encourages people to accept a bad and usually unhealthy situation, but it also exonerates the food industry and excuses the sick attitude toward food and our bodies that society fosters. These women did not do a good job of parsing out the complexities of corporate food marketing, agribusiness, body image and modern sedentary lifestyles. It was just: "Fat people have it rough, just like Black people and gay people!" Useless.

Aug. 04 2009 03:52 PM
Mike in Park Slope

Sure, some people are bigger some people are smaller. They should not be treated differently, but when a human starts pushing the limits of that, say 250 pounds at 5'8", that has a negative effect on the rest of society that we should not be chastised or called "liberal fascists" for simply demanding that the fat person not be a drain on our environment, health care system, and public transportation personal comforts, and, that those huge people are not only undeserving of sympathy but certainly should not have an academic studies department, or even a college level class devoted to them. I'd like to hear from the dean that approved the class and her reasons and from the publisher of the reader and their reasons for accepting such a ridiculous book proposal.

Aug. 04 2009 03:16 PM
Rose from Queens, NY

Humans developed in an environment where we could barely get enough food to survive on. Our bodies are capable of making do with less than what feels like enough. It seems we have the ability to store lots of energies (extra calories as bodyfat) so that when there is less available we won't die. It makes sense that our instincts will drive us to eat whatever is available in the moment. We also had to use a lot more energy to survive (either lots of walking/running or physical labor) for most of our species existence on the planet.

Now everything is topsy-turvy. We have more calories available than we need and less physical labor required to survive. So we have to learn not to eat more than our instincts tell us and to exercise more than we "want" to, given the fatigue from our stressed-out lifestyles.

Most people have addictions. Everything from cigarettes to TV. Unfortunately food addictions are harder to hide. It makes no sense to blame some people for showing how they deal with feelings of hopelessness when others of us can hide our addictions.

Fat acceptance makes sense if it means that we open a dialogue about making society workable for people's needs which means creating healthy lifestyles for everyone without getting bogged down in a blame game.

It is no coincidence that obesity is on the rise at the same time as the rate psychiatric diagnoses are going up, as more people are taking long term drugs for all sorts of conditions from high cholesterol to depression and as pollution is showing its long term toll. Americans feel bad about the way society is falling apart, as their bodies fall apart and their environment falls apart. These are the real issues we need to address. And in the mean time, we can stop blaming individual people and instead get involved in solving the big problems.

Aug. 04 2009 03:02 PM
Elizabeth from USA

Brian,
I respect your right to challenge whomever you have on your show, however: given the hostility level of these commenters (indicative, I think, of the general scorn, dismissal and contempt fat people face all the time), couldn't you have tried a bit harder to really understand where they were coming from? I feel frustration, admittedly, at the fat rights movement for not really acknowledging the health risks of obesity. Clearly, obesity Is a medical condition w/no easy solutions (contrary to what most people think they "know").
Still, these women are talking about, and have studied, Real Bias toward fat people. They mentioned the attitudes of most health providers, but you gave it scant attention.
Fat people know they should cut calories (they have tried to do that, time and again). Being morbidly obese is akin to being held hostage in a body that fights weight loss every step of the way.
Added to this: all the hatred from nasty people.
Wake, Brian: if people come to this country and Gain Weight, that may well say More About This Country (and our "toxic food environment") than it does about fat person!
The guests are for poor (and all) people eating well. Why is it so hard to lose weight in America, and so easy to Gain it? Why are obsesity rates rising? Stop blaming fat people!
Even if every fat person digs their own grave w/how they eat, why should they have to put up discrimination?
Obesity risks and causes/the hatred of obese people: two, separate issues. They Are connected, but not to the extent that bad treatment is Ever justified.
As for blaming fat people for increased costs, please do factor in thin/normal weight people who: have diabetes, smoke, engage in Any promiscuous or risky behavior, especially from young men (statistically more likely to die young, through risky behavior), plus all the aging, thin/normal weight couples who get expensive infertility treatments. Some of them are fat; most are not.

Aug. 04 2009 02:49 PM
amanda from Brooklyn

By the way, for a way more nuanced discussion on weight, body image, obesity and health, take a look at Shapely Prose (http://kateharding.net)

Aug. 04 2009 02:15 PM
jaja rose from Sullivan County New York

Brian, You spent your time fighting with the concept. On and on you went disputing the causality of FAT RATHER THAN allowing the guest to focus on the discrimination and consequences of being FAT. So argumentative! you were, missing the prime discussion, the soulful suffering of the FAT predicament!

Aug. 04 2009 01:11 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Hjs (#94),
Fat Bashing isn’t ok, but living in a fantasy land isn’t all right either. Obesity is taking a serious financial/medical/social toll on this country and agri-subsidies have a lot to do with it. Evolution isn’t making Americans fatter (as the guests imply), politics, government subsidies, and capitalism are. These women did nothing but blow smoke and make excuses. Yes, there are genetic predispositions to weight gain, as there are for alcoholism, drug dependency, violence, heart disease, and cancer. Doesn’t mean they’re all good. It means someone’s predisposed to it and needs to act accordingly. It’s not easy. And a real predisposition to obesity is the exception, not the rule. No one was picking up what these ladies were putting down simply because it lacked the one thing this country needs more of, honesty.

Aug. 04 2009 12:37 PM
Connie from Westchester

I am glad to see that your audience is smart enough to disagree with your guests' theory. I agree with the person who suggests that obese people should get their own health care system so that people who eat responsibly and live a healthy life style don't have to pay for their obese neighbors' health costs.

Aug. 04 2009 12:34 PM
Coogan from Jersey City, NJ (and west village)

It's long fascinated me that no one has drawn comparisons to an Indian diet. On the whole, I've long thought it's ideal- in that it's extremely inexpensive, healthy due to the basic freshness and structural complexity, and of course, delicious! (an acquired taste for some i know).

In India, compared to other areas of the globe, as poor as the poorest are (despite possible health issues) they often retain a high level of energy and overall optimism. Seems there's a obvious correlation between fewer calories and energy efficiency. While western diets have wandered and had to constantly adapt to drastic changes for over a thousand+ years, the indian diet has changed relatively little over thousands of years and food eaten has been made fresh without use of chemicals (though in the last decade or two this is changing, resulting in obvious, negative results).

I have yet to see a single obese Indian on par with what we've seen in the U.S... fat maybe, but never obese.

Sadly, it may be just a matter of time until their body shapes grow grotesque and DNA is altered to the point our 'western' genes have been thanks to the "food" habits we keep (growing up on junky overly sweet/salty/chemical filled processed foods, eating out, living on impulse meals instead of routine home cooking et c).

Aug. 04 2009 12:34 PM
Joe from Oakland, CA

There have been fat people forever.

It is not a new thing, a junk food thing or even an American thing.

Fat just is.

Better to support healthy choices for all people than to demonize fat people.

Aug. 04 2009 12:33 PM
Emily from Brooklyn

Also, I think that all of us have a certain weight/fatness range that our natural bodies live in naturally. For some, that is going to be higher and bigger. For all of us, keeping at the healthier side of that range can be a big struggle because of lifestyle factors previously mentioned. Most of us have some experiences gaining weight past at some point in our lives past the point where we are comfortable and happy. And most of us find a way to take it back off. Brian's point this morning about the 150 pound vs the 250 pound man is a little simplistic, if you'll forgive me. That 250 man might be operating in a much different range of what works for his body than the 150 pound man. He might be only slightly over his tipping point. Also, both of the men have myriad factors in their lives contributing to their good or bad health, and size might be a significant factor or it might not. We want easy answers in this country when it comes to health, but it's a complex topic. There is so much more we could know about the issues of body fat, weight and health, but we'll never know it because of this desire for the easy answer.

Aug. 04 2009 12:27 PM
Emily from Brooklyn

I think that there is a wide variety of body types in the world. Some members of certain ethnic groups tend to be bigger and heavier and some are thinner and smaller. Because we are a nation of immigrants, you see this variety here. And there is obviously a big variety among individuals as others have pointed out. Some people can and do maintain a much higher percentage of body fat, stay relatively healthy and live a long time. Some people can rigorously maintain a small percentage of body fat and still die of heart disease or cancer. There are many, many factors that contribute to the health of a person and a big factor is circumstance and luck. Our medical system is numbers happy and it prevents doctors sometimes from looking at very useful clues when examining their patients or when doing studies. Right now, in medical research the numbers rule, so much of the study involves getting an initial number and then justifying that number rather than true observation. Then it's watered down and reported to Time Magazine or whatever and we think we know everything there is to know. The "fat" issue touches on the way in which research is often biased and faulty.

Aug. 04 2009 12:16 PM
Jay from Manhattan/Queens

I agree to seome extent with MFan from Brooklyn, NY who says that there is an element fo choice here for MANY people. I too have had to struggle (and continue to struggle) to "get over" the fact that exercise was not valued in my family, and I learned a lot of bad (lazy) habits that have led me to gain weight over the years.

I recently lost 55lbs with weight watchers and found it to be incredibly empowering as it addressed all the various issues that are comign up here: poor food choices, exercise, emotional eating, habits from family/ childhood/ environement. It is in essence coaching for lifestyle change.

We'll see how I do keeping the wight off (as she said in the show, only 2% succeed, but I'd venture to guess that most of thos who don't are not really making lifestyle changes, just dieting, and how long can you survive on cabbage soup, grapefruit, zero carbs, etc?)

One point that she came close to making is that this is a class issue. Poor people are more likely to make poor food choices either because of budget, lack of information or lack of quality shopping in their neighborhoods.

Aug. 04 2009 12:08 PM
Jay from Manhattan/Queens

I agree to seome extent with MFan from Brooklyn, NY who says that there is an element fo choice here for MANY people. I too have had to struggle (and continue to struggle) to "get over" the fact that exercise was not valued in my family, and I learned a lot of bad (lazy) habits that have led me to gain weight over the years.

I recently lost 55lbs with weight watchers and found it to be incredibly empowering as it addressed all the various issues that are comign up here: poor food choices, exercise, emotional eating, habits from family/ childhood/ environement. It is in essence coaching for lifestyle change.

We'll see how I do keeping the wight off (as she said in the show, only 2% succeed, but I'd venture to guess that most of thos who don't are not really making lifestyle changes, just dieting, and how long can you survive on cabbage soup, grapefruit, zero carbs, etc?)

One point that she came close to making is that this is a class issue. Poor people are more likely to make poor food choices either because of budget, lack of information or lack of quality shopping in their neighborhoods.

I am all for acceptance, and I do understand that some obese people have other medical issues that contribute to their weight gain, but let's not get CLASS issues junked up with "fat" rights. Please.

It strikes me as interconnected with the show yesterday with Michael Pollan talking about how our cooking habits have changed (we don't do it anymore); and all the discussion about health care (preventive care would cost so much less than disease-curing care).

Aug. 04 2009 12:08 PM
jay from nyc

Brooklyn I understand your point but I don't think any one is arguing what you claim, I have not seen a single person on here post anything saying that, so nice try but really a red herring. In addition, I don't tolerate someone blowing smoke in my face, nor do I accept the notion that I should tolerate fat people sitting in my lap because they donn't fit in their own seat. The point being is that they are not just affecting themselves they are affecting the enitre planet.
Voer, you are correct. Thin people are being discriamted agsint by fatties. We are expected to preented that they are fine, and if we say something its "fascistic" we are expected to have our bodies suffer abuse at the hands of rolls of fat people when they take up our seat, we are epected to pay more for airfare to subsizde their weight. I want my rights!!!!

Aug. 04 2009 12:08 PM
hjs from 11211

so much hate out there. guess it's OK to bash fat people.

Aug. 04 2009 12:08 PM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

I am an average-sized male, and I find "anti-fat" discourse simplistic, and often even fascistic (see some of the comments above).
To suggest that we should all aspire to the same "ideal" gym-toned body-type *IS* just as offensive as suggesting we should all be white, or christian, or straight, or whatever.
If the big person is healthy and happy, why judge them because of their size? If they are unhappy and unhealthy, what good does it do them to add to their misery with scorn and judgement?

Aug. 04 2009 12:01 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Jay from NYC,

The interesting thing is, as vanity sizing has kept the “average American” the same size as they have gotten older (and larger), I’ve been getting “smaller” since college… and I’ve gained a good deal of weight (as muscle) since then. In college I was a medium, then, all of a sudden, I was a small… In some stores, I’m now an extra-small. And if I have to buy something based on a real measurement (like neck size) I’m swimming in it, wonder if that’s discrimination and a cause for Thin Studies.
On a unrelated note, anyone ever look at the back of a mannequin in men’s stores… See how many pins they use so the clothes fit the forms?
We don’t need fat studies or thin studies, just honesty. Not judgment, just honesty.

Aug. 04 2009 12:00 PM
Marielle from Brooklyn

My mother lived in Brooklyn for the first 37 years of her life. My parents had one car, which my father took to work. My mother walked everywhere, usually pushing one or more of her four kids in a stroller. She never gained a pound. At the age of 37, she moved to the suburbs and developed a weight problem with which she as struggled for nearly 40 years. One reason (among many) that I have a phobia about the suburbs!

Aug. 04 2009 12:00 PM
phyllis from nyc

she sounds like a fraud to me.

Aug. 04 2009 11:57 AM
Mike in Park Slope

I can't wait till I get tenure and can do whatever I want...

Aug. 04 2009 11:56 AM
CD from jersey

I was actually shocked that the professor used the life expectancy argument. I guess we don't have to worry about any diseases, because hey, we are living longer than 70 years ago! I don't think a High School student would even argue that.

Aug. 04 2009 11:55 AM
amanda from Brooklyn

A 150lb man and a 250lb man might eat the same? No. They might eat the same foods, but I promise you they aren't eating the same amount of it and they are not spending the same amount of time engaged in physical activity.

At some level true obesity reflects behavior choices that are self destructive and unhealthy.

And, the economic justice argument isn't just about access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it is about space to play. It is about whether your parents feel safe sending you off to the nearby basketball courts, about whether you really have a gym in your school (plenty of NYC schools do not).

Obesity is a problem. We won't solve it by discriminating against people who are obese, but we won't solve it by pretending it isn't a problem, either.

Aug. 04 2009 11:53 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Wow, reading these posts shows how much judgmental nanny statist nonsense swirls in the brains of the eating disorderly liberal fascists. They shout as one: "no soup for you!"

Brought to you by your friends at Propaganda Parodies (c) 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Aug. 04 2009 11:51 AM
lucy from manhattan

This woman is laughable. And a "Fat Studies Reader"? Please. What a waste of time and tenure.

Aug. 04 2009 11:50 AM
Tim from Brooklyn

This is just sad. These women can't answer one question honestly. They cannot say that behavior has an impact on weight, when it's been proven time and again. Very few people that are obese are genetically predisposed to being overweight.

Someone needs to ask them about the growing obesity rates in developing countries because of the influx of fast food. Did a generation just change their genetics to become obese?

This is just hyper-PC and identity politics brought to an absurd and unhealthy point. "Say it loud, I think I might be genetically predisposed to being obese and deserve special treatment and I'm proud."

Aug. 04 2009 11:50 AM
Jackson from Brooklyn

I'd like to address metabolism in this discussion - I read recently that one's metabolism is established in late teens to early 20's. I was a runner in high school and ran mini marathons in my 20's. I'm thin, with good muscle tone. I don't go to the gym, but am a New York pedestrian. I don't eat processed food, but do indulge in sweets, carbs and red meat. Its fair to say I eat like a horse, but skip meals occasionally due to my schedule. How does metabolism fit into the equation of obesity?

Aug. 04 2009 11:49 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

So, this fat studies woman has claimed Japan’s healthcare sucks, Europeans are poor with terrible healthcare, and there’s no food elsewhere on the planet, so that’s why people tend to gain weight in the United States. Also, obesity on the continent is at an all time high (the miracle of science) and so is life expectancy (again, the miracle of science/medicine); therefore, obesity is healthful. Diets are bad because people don’t stick to them and people have free will, so expecting them to moderate is unreasonable; we should do nothing. Fat studies is legitimate because Americans are gaining weight in record numbers; Americans have evolved to be larger, it’s not environmental… it’s genetic. And… Because everyone is overweight in the United States, might makes right!

Aug. 04 2009 11:49 AM
janet maughan from new jersey

The guests have a point. The truth is we don't know all the reasons for the increase in obesity. yes, there are strong correlations between the industrialization of food and the population's weight gain. But there is also serious research looking into the impacts exposures to chemicals have on obesity later in life, and other researchers are looking into the role of stomach viruses playing a role in metabolism and the propensity to gain weight. So the guests are not saying that being fat is great. They are saying that we really don't know the degree to which weight is under people's control which is our typical Calvinist notion.

Aug. 04 2009 11:47 AM
Nelly from NJ

I am appalled at this conversation. Accepting obesity is giving people a passport to ill health. I am an average person and when I do not watch what I eat or when I skip the gym I gain weight. People are obese because of poor eating choices. You can go to McDonald's and pick up a salad instead of a Big Mac or a yogurt instead of a breakfast sandwich, water instead of soda. For the most part It has to do with caloric intake and caloric burn (there are exceptions) we are breeding fat parents that do not teach their kids properly. I am all for the government teaching people how to eat and giving them access to good food, but really the responsibility lies in you...And about women's sizes, what was once a size 10 has been changed by manufacturers to a size 6 to increase purchasing. Appalled.

Aug. 04 2009 11:47 AM
Naseem

Brian -- I appreciate that this is a complex, multi-factorial issue. But it seems that your guests are fat apologists who refuse to get to the bottom of the issue: being fat is not healthy, and in the vast majority of cases, it is due to poor lifestyle choices (not to genetics, etc.).

Aug. 04 2009 11:46 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

FATNESS IS A DISEASE, NOT A CHOICE. It’s about “genes” and genetic predisposition, not lack of control. Brian, as a skinny bicycle riding twit, is spewing hate speech against “fatties.”

Even the anointed one, Barrack Hussein Obama a/k/a Barry Soetoro (his last legal name) smokes cigarettes to avoid eating chocolate. We can only speculate at what else he does to stay skinny, can you say late night DEA evidence lab raids? Yes friends, he smokes, another thing the liberal media failed to tell you like, Michelle being “disbarred” ahead of an insurance fraud investigation after being an attorney for only 4 years.

Under skinny Tony Weiner’s national socialist health care plan, fat people will be denied services, i.e., slowly “put down” along with old people and the disabled. It’s all part of the new cruelty in the liberal fascists’ brave new world.

I say ask not what a slice of pie can do for you, ask what you can do for a slice of pie.

Brought to you by your friends at Propaganda Parodies (c) 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Aug. 04 2009 11:46 AM
CBrown from Brooklyn

The comment the guest just made about doctors is really the key to what she's getting at. She's about not making fat people feel bad. OF COURSE being obese has negative health consequences. OF COURSE it's not right to discriminate against fat people. OF COURSE there are many, many people who are not fat but have body image issues. That doesn't justify b.s.ing away the real health issues related to obesity.

Aug. 04 2009 11:46 AM
Sean from Forest Hills

The editors would be much more credible if they did not seem to be rule out that some people are fat simply because they overeat and that, yes, that is unhealthy.

Aug. 04 2009 11:46 AM
marie from Pittsburgh

"hereditary"

I come from a family of overweight people on my fathers side. My father is the thinnest one because he takes care of himself. I have his metabolism. If I don't stimulate my body by exercising my metabolism comes to a halt and I gain weight VERY easily. But when I exercise regularly I lose that weight very easily too. the hereditary issue is being stubborn to the truth that you aren't eating and exercising.

Aug. 04 2009 11:45 AM
Jaq from manhattan

For the genetic argument take a look at cell biologist
Bruce Lipton PHD who blows the genetic crutch out of the water, blame is pretty boring

Aug. 04 2009 11:45 AM
Yuko from Manhattan

Brian's point about Japanese people, who are not from poor country that lacks food, is totally right.
I Immigrated from japan ten years ago, and I have, without doubt, gained weight, and so are many Japanese people I know. And moving here as an adult, I can tell you, that it has to do with the eating habit in this country.

Ask any non-American about food portions served here. Japanese, German, French... you name it, and they would all say that the portion they serve here is HUGE.
Sadly, we, human, adjust to the new habit quite quickly. When we adjust to large one portion, we adjust to finish eating them.

I know that becoming fat and gaining weight is not just simply about eating habit, but one should never deny that it does have a huge role in it.
Why don't make restaurants in the US start serving less portion and see what happens.

Aug. 04 2009 11:45 AM
Karen from Stamford, CT

Why doesn't she answer the questions as asked?

Aug. 04 2009 11:44 AM
Dark Symbolist from NYC

#18

I completely agree. I am so sick of people comparing everything to being black. Quite frankly I find this guest's comparison between civil rights regarding something you CANNOT change (the color of one's skin) to weight to be insulting and quite frankly demeans the struggle that people of color have gone through in this country to gain equal rights.

Yes some of it is genetic, but diet/habit is also a big part of it...the way the guest tries to discount this is disingenuous at best.

Aug. 04 2009 11:44 AM
PH

Check out this photo of a crowd on the beach Coney Island in 1940 taken by Weegee. How many fat people do you see ?

http://davedevine.files.worpress.com/2008/12/weegee_coney_island.jpg

Imagine the same photo taken today.

Aug. 04 2009 11:44 AM
the real truth from everywhere!

Brian,

During two years on living in Japan, this white jew 20-something gained 60 lbs. And it was not due to overeating. It was environmental issues triggering a medical issue that would NOT have arisen in the US.

The particular combos of what you eat (e.g. iodine through seaweed, soy) can effect you.

Aug. 04 2009 11:44 AM
mike from Brooklyn, NY

Genetic dispositions? I believe you mean hormone (thyroid) deficiencies. Treatable with a pill.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
the truth from bkny

Healthy eating and excercise is the antidote for this entire problem. This is a non-issue, you gotta bend more than your elbow to your mouth to lose weight.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
Randall from Astoria

The logic that follows from "if one is obese they are because they cannot do anything about it" seems starkly like "if one is poor they are poor because they cannot do anything about it." This allows us to discriminate against those who are poor on the basis that they are poor. Doesn't the same logic allow us to discriminate against the obese? This is not empowerment.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
Julie from Queens

A year or so ago, Brian had Gina Kolata (author of Rethinking Thin) on the show. It's very interesting to hear the differences between that conversation and this one. When talking to another thin person, Brian had no trouble believing that diets don't work 95% of the time, that metabolism varies hugely from one person to another, and that there are plenty of healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. There was none of the judgmental tone coming out in this conversation.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

In all fairness, I have to say that I have eaten junk my whole life and I have been thin my own life - I'm lucky, I have good genetics. Not everyone does.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
jay from nyc

yeah caller named kirsten we are missing about 5000 extra calories, and this is fact. You are missing that fact. You eat more you get fat thats it and thats all. Its pure numbers get over it, you are an apologist just like this on air guest

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
sarah from manhattan

Oh please. Most overweight people I know (even those who are moneyed) eat their way into it willingly.

They DON'T eat the same amount as thin people. Seriously. They eat more.

Aug. 04 2009 11:43 AM
Christina from Manhattan

Fat surgery - caller if you had 'dieted' all your life, then surgery doesn't change anything. Are you eating less with surgery?

I'm tired of hearing this argument. If you did everything, the surgery wouldn't work.

Aug. 04 2009 11:42 AM
melissa

BRIAN! you're doing a great job but she's still avoiding any acknowledgement of behavioral impact, AT LEAST PARTIALLY. she should at least acknowledge that the genetically predisposed obese people are not the majority of obese people.

Aug. 04 2009 11:42 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

Yes its true that being fat is not good for you but its also true that mistreating fat people does not help anyone.

Aug. 04 2009 11:42 AM
Mike in Park Slope

ROFL. Yeah they don't like to go to the doc cause the doctor tells them they have to loose weight or die. Reality sucks!

Aug. 04 2009 11:42 AM
Good Lord from NYC

These people are charlatans. This is why people are losing respect for the academic humanities in Europe and the US. Seriously, this may have some interesting aspect to it, but they are approaching this interview in an intellectually dishonest (or just dumb?) manner. Its hard to imagine they would be substantially more rigorous in their actual book if this is how they argue in public.

Aug. 04 2009 11:41 AM
jay from nyc

its not nataionl health care that will keep you skinny, its keeping your mouth shut. This is embarassing. This is pure hucksterism, trying to make a buck off of this problem. Yuck.

Aug. 04 2009 11:41 AM
BL Moderator from Varick St. Studios

[[BL Moderator Writes: We've removed a few comments that violate the WNYC posting policy. Please keep your comments civil and productive to the discussion taking place on the air. And, while you are of course allowed to disagree with one another, please refrain from personal attacks.
Thanks, and thanks for listening.
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Aug. 04 2009 11:41 AM
Christina from Manhattan

Obesity costs our country $147 Billion a year. Everyone is paying for this through insurance premiums.

Obesity - FAT- is not good and we should NOT accept it.

Aug. 04 2009 11:40 AM
CJ Franks from LIC, Queens

I'm listening to this discussion right now and thinking that it's a lot of bunk.

The amount of money you make each year has no correlation to the kinds of decisions you make. I am lower-middle class and can't afford the best of all foods. I do, however, exercise regularly (not in a gym), and eat responsibly on a tight budget.

What a ridiculous argument, it will never go anywhere!

Aug. 04 2009 11:40 AM
Mike in Park Slope

Does she have any evidence that isn't anecdotal? Where's her real health statistics?

Aug. 04 2009 11:40 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

No, no, no.

I came from France and I did gain weight after coming here.

Aug. 04 2009 11:40 AM
John from NYC

God this woman makes no sense. The health-care spending in our country for keeping people alive has increased from 3% of the GDP in 1950s to 17% GDP.
The increasing obesity has affected health adversely but it cannot be argued that increasing life-expectancy is not inspite of obesity.

Aug. 04 2009 11:39 AM
GK from Queens

I'm sorry, but much of the obesity comes from diet choices, either recently or earlier in life. (A supermarkets need to be in poorer neighborhoods.)
Obesity is not a valid size choice, it is by definition morbidly dangerous, shortening life span. It drives up medical costs; it drives up the society's health care costs. It's not fair to those of us with healthier upbringings and diets.
As caller said, when people move to Mediterranean countries they get thinner.

Aug. 04 2009 11:39 AM
the real truth from everywhere!

Brian,

You are so wrong! If you cut out discrimination in hiring against fat folks, and they can demand better food, they will be healthier. THAT DOESN"T MEAN THEY WILL BE THINNER. (Or at least substantially thinner.)

You guys think that you really really understand what losing weight is about? Hah!

Aug. 04 2009 11:38 AM
Robert from NYC

Again, go to the Bronx, just about 90% of the people take up 2 seats on the bus! (Not an official study, just an observation.)

Aug. 04 2009 11:38 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

As difficult as it may be being fat, black people can't stop being black, or gay being gay or women being women. If someone is so committed, they could (if they choose) lose weight. But yes, fat discrimination exists.

Aug. 04 2009 11:38 AM
the truth from bkny

Agreed HJS.

Aug. 04 2009 11:37 AM
Kourtney from West Village

Just felt compelled to mention that the 113 year old man that the fat-rights guest spoke of attributed his long life to small portions/not overeating.

Aug. 04 2009 11:37 AM
the truth from bkny

Don't know how to address this coward hiding behind my name BUT portion control and counseling to find out the underlying issues why a person is abusing food.

Aug. 04 2009 11:36 AM
jay from nyc

size four is no longer a size four any more its been changed because women feel bad about themselves when they buy there true size, which in this case is more like a size 10, which is borderline big. Get this kook off teh air good god this is such nonsense

Aug. 04 2009 11:36 AM
IJQ from bklyn

This is ridiculous. Implying you can substitute "fat" for "black" or "poor" is just insulting.

Don't turn your fat into a civil issue. Just get on the treadmill.

Aug. 04 2009 11:36 AM
Marco from New York

It's interesting that rich men tend to be fat, rich women thin, poor men thin, poor women fat.

Aug. 04 2009 11:36 AM
Hillary from Brooklyn

Brian, your guest speaker says that the definitions of "fat" has changed recently, and therefore, there aren't more fat people than in the past. Perhaps it should be considered that the definitions of fat have changed for a reason: that there are a lot more health problems caused by obesity, and therefore the topic has required more attention. As you said, there are more people falling into categories of 'obese' and 'morbidly obese' as ever. Can this really be caused by something as simple as a change of definition? Maybe for some percentage, but not for all.

Aug. 04 2009 11:35 AM
marie from Pittsburgh

how can this woman claim that being because the increasing length of life and the increased obesity in this country means that being fat isn't unhealthy?

longevity = better medicines and surgeries.

Aug. 04 2009 11:35 AM
hjs from 11211

once again this is a CLASS issue, but there is no class in america, right

Aug. 04 2009 11:35 AM
db from nyc

... big, different sizes and shapes, sure. but obese, the size of two or three ordinary folks taking up two seats on the plane... gimmie a BREAK!!!

why try to legitimize a serious health epidemic???

Aug. 04 2009 11:35 AM
sarah from manhattan

Fat studies???

How about fat, overweight, unhealthy people should take thin studies. ??

Aug. 04 2009 11:34 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

Has there been a systematic study in the change in diets over the last 20 years?

Aug. 04 2009 11:34 AM
mozo from nyc

More postmodern insanity. The fact is that there are more obese people in the US than ever before. Why? Horrible food, no exercise. The last thing we need is to revise statistics. The guests lost me when they refused to blame ANY individuals on their weight problems.

Aug. 04 2009 11:34 AM
hjs from 11211

truth
"What is wrong with white america?"

i don't think we have time to answer that one

Aug. 04 2009 11:33 AM
Zach from UWS

Thank you for doing these segments Brian. Sometimes I get nostalgic for college, but then people like Esther Rothblum remind me of how simultaneously ridiculous and condescending academics can be. P.S. Longevity does not a healthy life make.

Aug. 04 2009 11:33 AM
melissa

fat okay, obese not okay. this is the epitome of moral relativism to me. is this woman saying the majority of obese people aren't able to lose weight? i agree that one could argue that there is a relationship between weight and class but the solution to this should be education, not acceptance of obesity.

Aug. 04 2009 11:33 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

I'm sorry, but this is not making a lot of sense - because people are living longer that means that being overweight is not bad for your health?

Aug. 04 2009 11:33 AM
the truth from bkny

Thank you.

Aug. 04 2009 11:32 AM
jay from nyc

THIS IS THE BIGGEST PICE OF GARBAGE I HAVE EVER HEARD. Yes, it is your fault your are fat, yes it is your fault that your behavior has made you this way. You are fat in 99% of ALL cases because you can't keep your mouth shut. This has created a huge burden on society, and sorry its not discrimination. Fat people cause planes and cars to burn more fuel which hurts the envorinment, it drives up health care costs, it drives up the cost of food, it has horrible consequences for society. Fat rights give me a break, how about my right to not have a fat person sitting in my lap on the subway because they are too big to fit in their own seat? Garbage, both of these women have garbage ideas.

Aug. 04 2009 11:32 AM
mike from Brooklyn, NY

How about this -- if you are fat, and respect yourself, other people will probably respect you in turn.

It's just that often those two don't go together.

Aug. 04 2009 11:32 AM
Tonky from brooklyn

Is fat or chubby the same as obese?

Also, does this fatso live in NYC? New Yorkers are skinny because we walk and bike everywhere and because we spend so much money on rent that we can't afford overeating.

Suburbanites are doughy because they use their SUV's like an oversized wheelchair.

Aug. 04 2009 11:32 AM
Mike in Park Slope

The very idea of a Fat Studies department is ridiculous. This is especially shameful at a time when plenty of legitimate PhDs are having so much trouble on the job market in existing departments. To divert university resources to this nonsense is disgusting.

Aug. 04 2009 11:31 AM
the truth from bkny

Portion control is the answer to this problem. Unless you have a thyroid issue.

Aug. 04 2009 11:30 AM
the truth from bkny

These type comments are the reason racism will not go away in the USA. Now we are makinig excuses for being fat.

Aug. 04 2009 11:30 AM
McDonald's Restaurants

I first visited China in 1985 and everybody in Shanghai and everybody was thin. I recently visited again and everybody was fat. We endorse this.

Aug. 04 2009 11:30 AM
Bryan from East Village

Can we have a movement for oppressed drug addicts too? Why do people pick on them? They have a *condition* people? Nothing can change that, right?

Aug. 04 2009 11:29 AM
the truth from bkny

What is wrong with white america?

Aug. 04 2009 11:28 AM
the truth from bkny

Why does everyone compare everything to being BLACK??? Fat is Fat period, you are not reclaiming the name.

Aug. 04 2009 11:27 AM
Tardis from NYC

I think it's important to focus more critically and objectively on the social impact of the rising rates of obesity rather than finding a politically-correct term to describe obese people.


For example, the MTA will spend millions of dollars making buses and trains more efficient but these changes can not factor in the impact of obese people walking through tunnels, climbing up and down stairs, and taking up more space on these vehicles. How can we discuss the issue of one person taking up one or more seats on a train while other riders stand? How can we address these issues without sounding anti-obese? The number of obese people is not shrinking, it is growing. A 100 pound five-year-old eating ice-cream is a common sight and strikes me as a form of abuse rather than a lifestyle choice.

Aug. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Robert from NYC

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer.

Aug. 04 2009 11:13 AM
MFan from Brooklyn, NY

Sorry, as a former obese person, may I say -- get over yourself. And then get to a gym.

People are not born fat. Perhaps they are born into unhealthy eating and an unhealthy lifestyle, but there comes a point when you can change this. It's not easy, but if you want to, you can do it.

It's like any other unhealthy lifestyle choice, like smoking cigarettes or doing drugs. Some people dig it, and that's fine, but trying to legitimize this choice strikes me as just too precious.

Aug. 04 2009 11:11 AM
hjs from 11211

I'm worried about people's health. this generation's children may not live as long as their parents. like smoking we should not encourage unhealthy actions. first maybe we could stop subsidizing the high-fructose corn syrup industry

Aug. 04 2009 10:59 AM
mike

Peg is completely right. You should see what people feed their kids these days. What used to be the kid's menu at restaurants is now served at home, meaning that they get frozen chicken nuggets and mac and cheese and crap like that - every night. I don't know why parents (or anyone else) can't get their act together to roast a chicken, but find it easy to stick a frozen chicken pot pie in the oven, when really, there's about the same amount of work involved.

Aug. 04 2009 10:49 AM
Peg Kennedy from Willseyville NY

Obese people have much more than 20 pounds to lose. I am not talking about media images of thin people. Many thin people are not healthy either. An extra 20 pounds is no big deal. Allowing children to become obese is societal abuse. Stop watching your "tubes," put away the remotes, leave virtual reality and get out for a walk.

Obesity is a major medical condition and we as a society need to address this.

Aug. 04 2009 10:39 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

What about the effect of being fat on other people through higher health care cost?

Aug. 04 2009 10:28 AM
mike

Of course being thin means your health is better. In fact, the only proven way to increase the length of your life is to eat a very low caloric diet - much lower than nearly every American eats.

I know plently of people who would love to lose 20 pounds who aren't that unhealthy, who I think look perfectly fine, but what's wrong with them wanting to lose 20 pounds? It does make you feel better. And if it gets you to eat less, or exercise more, then what's wrong with that? But when you say, it's OK that I weight 20 pounds too much, what good can come of that?

The negative stereotypes are for obese people, who truly have eating problems. And really, what are these stereotypes? That they take up too much room on an airplane seat? They do! I've sat next to them. That they run out of breath when they walk up the stairs because it's hard work getting 300 pounds up two stories? They do! That they eat too much? They do! Otherwise they wouldn't be fat. It's not a stereotype.

Aug. 04 2009 10:16 AM
BL

There's a sort of disturbing assumption here that all fat people are necessarily unhealthy. I realize in the case of the rise in American obesity that is probably largely the case -- nevertheless I know plenty of people who eat better and exercise more than I do, and still weigh far more than me -- plus they have to deal with all the negative stereotypes to boot. It's about health, not size, and being thin doesn't necessarily mean your health is in any better shape than an overweight person.

Aug. 04 2009 10:01 AM
mike

Clearly these guests are in the pocket of McDonalds, Kraft, Stoufers and the other dealers of disgusting, unhealthy food who would like nothing more than for us to stop fighting our instincts that gaining weight might make us unattractive and succumb to the idea that it's ok to eat boatloads of junk and not worry about our health or our looks or the way we feel, physically, not just about our self-image.

Not everyone needs to have a perfect body, any more than everyone needs to be amazingly smart, but there is nothing wrong with aspiring to that, rather than aspiring to be fat.

And sure, some people are genetically inclined to get fat, but you don't get fat unless you eat a lot, or badly. (although I do believe that anti-depressants have an effect too).

Aug. 04 2009 09:56 AM
socialism sez eat less

by the way, i agree with the guest that people shouldn't "obsess" about their weight -- or anything else. obsession is often its own affliction and a perplexing one indeed.

fortunately, obsession and being "non obese" as your guest might have it are unrelated.

Aug. 04 2009 09:51 AM
Sue from NJ

More and More people are unhappy with their body. even if one is 5' 2" and 110 lbs or 150 lbs. one culprit is the airbrushed photographs of celebrity bodies(who are already addicted to plastic surgery) on check out counter magazines. No body can match up to these photographs. Unless people accept their imperfections we will continue to have millions of depressed souls wishing they had 'the perfect body'.

Aug. 04 2009 09:45 AM
Brian

I agree with the comments posted so far. You've got to be kidding me with this topic. Why would anyone try to legitimize a very real and important health concern? Only in America. How can these authors tell us with a straight face that images like this are acceptable:

http://mediaenvironment.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/mcdonalds-kid.jpg

I'm not suggesting that everyone has to be hyper-vigilant about diet, exercise etc., but why would you try to absolve yourself of responsibility when it comes to being reasonably healthy? How is that fair to kids?

Aug. 04 2009 09:41 AM
socialism sez eat less

(for those classed by health insurers as "low risk," ie taking care of themselves properly, what is the premium added by those who include activities that are classed by health insurers as "high risk?" What are those risks, specifically, and is obesity included?

Aug. 04 2009 09:38 AM
socialism sez eat less

can the obese and other self-abusers get their own health insurance plan so i don't need to buy their meds? thnx!

Aug. 04 2009 09:34 AM
CD from jersey


Elizabeth Kolbert recently had a good synthesis of the "fat" debate in the New Yorker in which she laid out a good critique of the absurd arguments included in The Fat Studies Reader. I quote:

"...just because size bias exists it doesn’t follow that putting on weight is a subversive act. In contrast to the field’s claims about itself, fat studies ends up taking some remarkably conservative positions. It effectively allies itself with McDonald’s and the rest of the processed-food industry, while opposing the sorts of groups that advocate better school-lunch programs and more public parks. To claim that some people are just meant to be fat is not quite the same as arguing that some people are just meant to be poor, but it comes uncomfortably close"

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/07/20/090720crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=4

Aug. 04 2009 08:13 AM
Diana from Princeton, NJ

I agree completely, Peg. Though there are factors contributing to obesity that are beyond one's control - genetics, dietary inconvenience, biological or physical limitations like diabetes or disability - the reason we see so many more obese people (and children) today is because of our culture legitimizing and perpetuating the ease with which our bodies expand to gargantuan proportions. I am lucky to come from a family not generally predisposed to obesity, but I was raised in a family that has also not predisposed me to gluttony and inactivity. Our culture directs how we look, and how we accept how we look. It is in the cultural realm that we also need to battle the medical issue of obesity, and it starts with recognizing the problem for what it is - a serious epidemic, cultural and medical, and not an acceptable lifestyle choice.

Aug. 04 2009 07:17 AM
Peg Kennedy from Willseyville NY

Sorry - A little bit of fat OK - Obesity Not OK.
We have set up horrible lifestyles in our culture. Processed foods that don't nourish. 'Couch or desk chair Potatoism'. We should not accept obesity anymore than we do drug addicts. Their extremely unhealthy bodies are crying out for help.

Aug. 04 2009 06:29 AM

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