Speaking of Not Funny Anymore

In case you think I exaggerate the abominable treatment of fat people in this culture, please enjoy this piece by Jaime O’Neill from Sacramento News & Review.

[F]at’s not funny anymore, not given the sheer number of fat people thundering through America’s malls and markets. As Alfred Hitchcock understood, even things that are benign in small numbers become creepy en masse. Little birdies are cute—even sweet—but when the flock blots out the sun, it’s creepy.

And that’s how it’s become with fat people. You’re everywhere these days, people of a size once found only in tents where yokels paid a quarter to gawk at them. You’re not just fat; you’re huge, ponderous, beyond jumbo, a vast and undulating formidability of flesh, an avalanche of avoirdupois, a devolution of the species back to a future of protoplasmic balloon creatures.


I wish I could figure out a way to fit that last line onto a Fat Hate Bingo card; I swear, sometimes it seems like journalists perpetuate the notion of an “obesity crisis” just because it gives them an excuse to bust out the thesaurus and exercise the flowery descriptive sentence-writing muscles that have been atrophying since their freshman creative writing classes. (The word “undulating” is an inevitable favorite, even though fat people don’t actually move through the world in slow motion, so it’s actually pretty hard to catch us undulating in public.)

I’m not usually one to employ the “Imagine if he said this about X other group of people!” argument — since every group you could name still has its own important battles to fight — but that passage up there seems to be begging for it. So indulge me for a moment. Look at that first paragraph:

As Alfred Hitchcock understood, even things that are benign in small numbers become creepy en masse. Little birdies are cute—even sweet—but when the flock blots out the sun, it’s creepy.

and imagine he’s talking about immigrants, not fat people.

Now remind yourself that he is talking about fat people — emphasis on the “people.” And this was published. In an alternative weekly — the kind of publication that, while not necessarily being known for the most impeccable journalistic standards, is generally known for being a bastion of progressive thought. As in, the kind of thought not generally known for eliciting “The barbarians are at the gates, and we normal people must rise up!”-type statements.

Yet, according to this jackass, my family and I and many of our friends represent a “devolution of the species.” A devolution of the species. Did you catch that? Remind you of anything?

Wait. It gets better.

Contemporary America begins to look more and more like that old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which aliens take over the bodies of earthlings, exact replicas of the people whose identities they assume, but minus feelings and emotions. In Body Snatcher: 2007, however, the aliens have snatched the bodies of normal Americans and made them unable to wedge themselves into most public seating or, if able to sit, completely unable to extract their bloated butts from those no-longer-adequately-sized seats once their full weight has spread and settled.

The “snatched” bodies are still apparently “minus feelings and emotions” in this version, though — since believing that is about the only justification I can imagine for speaking this way about actual human beings. For fuck’s sake.

Oh, and fat people are also evidently superhumans who never suffer from disabilities:

Lots of those obese people deal with it by purchasing electric carts to haul themselves around in. You’d think when you’d gotten too damn fat to walk, that fact might be a wake-up call, a message from God or just an indication that something is a little out of whack in the old lifestyle department, but the message lots of Americans take from the confabulation of flab is that it’s time to motorize the motion.

Um, yeah. You’d think when you see a person on a motorized scooter, you might consider the possibility that she has a disability or illness that makes walking painful, regardless of her size. You might consider the possibility that he has arthritis or fibromyalgia or is recovering from chemo. You might consider the possibility that she racked her knee playing soccer two days ago. I mean, if you were a progressive, you might. If you’re just a hateful dicksmack who wishes everyone in the world looked exactly like you, you probably wouldn’t.

So hey, maybe this guy doesn’t consider himself a progressive. Maybe he’s the kind of fucknut who does feel the same hatred and disgust for people with disabilities, immigrants, non-white people, gay people, etc. — ergo not the kind of person whose opinion I should dignify with a moment’s thought.

But wait, what’s this? Oh, there’s more to his argument than “Fat people are creepy!” Fat people are also

becoming a living metaphor for the way the United States is viewed by much of the rest of the planet: a rapacious, gluttonous, insatiable nation of swine, the Pig People of North America, the fat neighbors who are fouling the whole neighborhood, consuming everything in sight, and strewing waste in your wake. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy, each person in the United States consumes twice as much energy as Germans, 12 times that of Colombians, and almost 30 times the consumption of India’s citizens. For each American’s consumption, 127 Haitians or 395 Ethiopians could consume away.

Whee! It is an alternative weekly!

Except, isn’t it the rich people who engage in the most egregious overconsumption? And isn’t it the poor people who are most likely to be fat? Doesn’t that create a small problem with your argument that the solution to our cultural profligacy is, uh, for fat people to diet? ‘Cause really, that’s the only substantive argument I’m seeing here. Not that people should stop buying fucking Hummers to drive around cities with excellent public transportation, or that we should quit building 5,000 square-foot houses for families of four, or that, you know, killing people for oil isn’t very nice. Just that fat people need to stop being fat. Have I already said “for fuck’s sake”? ‘Cause for fuck’s sake.

I first read the theory that fatphobia is a manifestation of our cultural anxiety about overconsumption in The Obesity Myth a few years ago, but I’ve never seen it illustrated quite so blatantly before. Thank you for connecting the dots with a goddamned Sharpie, Jaime O’Neill.

And thank you for giving me a perfect opportunity to bust out this quote, also from Paul Campos, once again:

Remember that particularly clueless right-wing acquaintance of yours? The one who believes that anybody in America can become rich, because he thinks about poverty in a completely unscientific, anecdotal way, which allows him to treat the exceptional case as typical? The one who can’t seem to understand the simplest structural arguments about the nature of social inequality?

The next time you see some fat people and get disgusted by their failure to “take care of themselves,” think about your clueless friend.

(Cross-posted.)

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62 Comments

Filed under 09_kate_harding

62 responses to “Speaking of Not Funny Anymore

  1. anangryoldbroad

    I’ve been having a hard time figuring out this”thing”that’s been gnawing at me for awhile now,and it hit me this morning what’s at the heart of my overall disgust with our culture.

    Mean/being an asshole/stepping on others to get what you want has become something to strive for. Not that Americans have always been nice and charming,ha. But in the past decade or so this particular habit of being mean and nasty is not only encouraged but held out as the gold standard. It’s everywhere. Used to be alot of this crap would result in a person being shunned and not too popular. Not anymore.

    I spent a long time examining myself in this,am I too sensitive? Too picky? Too PC? I really don’t think so.

    I live in a rapidly expanding metro area(Atlanta),and it wasn’t like this when this place was more rural. We used to have a real community here,that’s been strip malled and McMansioned out of existence.

    I’ve been told to toughen up about this,but why the poop should I? I don’t want to be tough all the time,no one should have to be. It’s not a healthy way to live.

    Making fun of fat people is symptomatic of this mean spirited shit. IMO,if anything is the death of this country and what it could have been,it’s this. Being mean just because you can.

    I probably didn’t articulate this as well as I could have,but I think it’s out of hand,big time.

  2. Melissa McEwan

    Fucking hell.

    The reason that jackholes like O’Neill still feel perfectly entitled to say shit like this is because fat is presumed to always be a choice, and not just a choice, but a moral failing as well.

    The same presumptions used to be made about homosexuality, btw.

    And, yeah, for some people, fat is a choice. (Although, I’d note that probably even for the majority of people for whom fat is a choice, meaning that if only they’d just stop eating so much they’d instantly lose weight, their overeating is compulsive and emotional, and so a choice in the same sense that any addiction is “a choice.”)

    For other people, it isn’t a choice. And that doesn’t just include physical issues, but, as you point out, class issues. How easy is it to be healthy when, if you’re poor, you’re less than half as likely to find skim milk at your grocery store, there’s a 30% chance your grocery store won’t even carry fresh fruits and vegetables, and, if it does, there will be less choice and lower quality than that offered the average American? And that’s, of course, contigent on there even being a grocery store in your neighborhood if you’re very poor, which is unlikely (especially if you’re very poor and brown-skinned). What’s more likely is that you’re subsisting on a diet of foods than be bought at stores like White Hen Pantry or 7/11, which are boxed, canned, loaded with fats, sugars, and salt. But hey–that just means you have to exercise more to not be so fat and grody! And there’s lots of time left over after working 12 hours at a minimum wage job every day just to make ends meet, or maybe two jobs, because groceries are more expensive in impoverished urban ares, to get a good work-out.

    Healthfulness shouldn’t be a class issue, but it is. It manifests in myriad ways—access to the doctors and other health services, the kinds of jobs that extend health benefits to their employees, the cost of preventative care and drugs, etc. But almost never in any health discussion, even those which address class disparities, do you see the very basic issue of healthy food addressed, and it’s a very serious problem.

    Combine a dearth of local supermarkets with low car ownership in poor communities (something that became all too clear after Katrina), add in independent corner shops that have low purchasing power, and what you’ll find is a whole hell of a lot of people who are left with frozen dinners, boxed meals, and processed snacks as the staples of their diets.

    For most of us, I imagine the very thought of a neighborhood without a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables is almost incomprehensible, but it’s a reality for far too many Americans. The question we need to be asking is not why everyone doesn’t make whatever we feel are the best food choices, but why they don’t even have the same choices we do.

  3. Our family has gone through some meanness experiences this year, too. Almost all of us at one time or another.

    But it struck me last night at fireworks that when my husband offered our blanket for the people next to us to sit on, they were SURPRISED. They were surprised that we were nice. What is up with that?

  4. Adnan Y.

    A devolution of the species back to a future of protoplasmic balloon creatures.
    We evolved from balloon creatures? Homo Lumiere ?
    I think I was on sick-leave the day we covered that in college.
    That, or Dawkins lied to me.
    Personally, I don’t think it means what he think it means. From what I’ve understood, “fat” as he uses it was, if anything, an integral part of human evolutionary survival. It was/is the body’s equivalent to “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” during severe periods in human history, for example the Ice Age.

    insatiable nation of swine. HST’s ghost called – he’s got a slipper with O’Neill’s name on it.

    What I find interesting is the mention of Alfred Hitchcock. He is aware that Hitchcock’s build is fairly famous, right? Or did he overlook that for the sake of the piece? Also, the mention of the flock as it “blots out the sun” leads me to believe that he’s internalised dialogue from 300 – the fascism/homo-erotic body worship flick. This may seem like an aside, but it is important. All elements of story and military practicality aside – being in good shape as a warrior ready to fight at the first instance, etc – films such as 300 or Fight Club (which in fairness I rate as one of my favourite films) do send messages that being chubby is a no no, and detrimental to being healthy, manly non-conformist heroes. Nevermind, of course, the different somatotypes one maybe.

    Just a thought.

    p.s: Still trying to find that Men’s Health issue with the chubby fellow who was extremely athletic, running triathlons, et al, beating out much slimmer participants.

  5. Adnan Y.

    That’ meant to be “may be” not “maybe.” Oy.

  6. Kate Harding

    Adnan, this guy?

  7. Kate Harding

    Also, LOL to this:
    A devolution of the species back to a future of protoplasmic balloon creatures.
    We evolved from balloon creatures? Homo Lumiere ?

  8. Paul the Spud

    the kind of publication that, while not necessarily being known for the most impeccable journalistic standards, is generally known for being a bastion of progressive thought.

    This is the part that really bothers me. I really can’t stand it when “progressives” begin feeling smug and start smacking around women, LGBTQ’s or fat people. And you just know that any angry response to this would be met with a lot of eye-rolling. Who exactly is devolving, here? DEVO was right.

  9. Adnan Y.

    Exactamundo. I didn’t know what the fellow’s name was, but that’s the bloke. The Men’s Health magazine article went slightly into more depth, and also I felt that it was pretty significant of MH to have a feature on him because…well..you’ve seen the covers of MH, I take it?

    And going back to 300: Men’s Health UK tend to post interviews and workouts undertaken by celebs (the demand for the Brad Pitt/Fight Club bod? Unbelievable). Naturally, there was a demand for the 300 build, and there were interviews with Gerard Butler, et al. One thing that Butler stressed in the interview, if I recall correctly, was the sheer difficulty he encountered with the workout, as it had a detrimental effect on his body, something that others also encountered. Post-exercise, he remarked, his body reacted badly to the strain placed upon it. Again, I need to see this to know exactly per se what he said.

  10. Adnan Y.

    Hehe. Funny enough, I’d just finished reading about the Lumiere Bros, hence why it popped in my head.

    Ok, so the article wasn’t how I remembered it, but parts are still valid:

    From MH:

    Of course, the downside to an extreme transformation is just that — it’s extreme. Case in point: During production, Butler would often train with Twight, train with LiCastro, and then do his sword-and-shield work for hours on end. As a result, every joint in his 6’2” body ached by the time he set down his shield for the last time. And at some point along the way, he became overtrained, a state in which the stress of training has surpassed the body’s ability to recover fully from it. (*4) As a result, once filming wrapped, Butler stopped working out as abruptly as he’d started. Understandably, his body — and mind — needed a break. But the upshot was that his no-holds-barred training regimen turned into an equally hard-to-shake layoff, one that would last 8 months. Neither approach is healthy long term.

  11. Kate Harding

    Yeah, Paul, that infuriates me more than anything. You don’t get to call yourself pro-equality and anti-bigotry if you’re still a fucking bigot. Not a very difficult concept, you’d think.

    And uh-huh to the eye-rolling bit. “We have more important things to think about, like the rights of real people, not people like you.”

  12. DrNick

    Hi, Everybody!

    This was a hard piece to read after this week. After being on a health program for a week, and exercising daily, I decided I’d get an accurate reading of my weight. So I contacted the nearby hospital to see if they had a scale I could access so I could determine my weight.

    A -hospital-, mind you.

    I was directed to the loading docks. After explaining why I was there, I was taken up to shipping, where I realized that not only was this a common occurence, but a bit of fun for the shipping staff. Upon weighing myself, they seemed disappointed that I didn’t cry, as according to them, everyone cries in the scale room.

    Is there any surprise as to -why-? This is a fucking hospital! Even if they had to buy the -exact same scale-, why not place it in a hospital setting? That way, I wouldn’t have to make ‘ground shipping’ jokes to maintain my dignity, as I’m -TRYING TO DO WHAT EVERYONE TELLS ME TO DO-.

    I am really sick of being made to feel penitent for doing good work.

  13. Kate Harding

    The reason that jackholes like O’Neill still feel perfectly entitled to say shit like this is because fat is presumed to always be a choice, and not just a choice, but a moral failing as well.

    The same presumptions used to be made about homosexuality, btw.

    Yeah, and ex-gay ministries have about exactly the same long-term “success” rates as diets. Go figure.

    Like I said in the post, I’m wary of comparing oppressions, because it inevitably leads to arguments about who’s got it worse. (And since fat people aren’t usually murdered for being fat, or beaten up by the cops for being fat, etc., I’ll concede that argument right here anyway.) But the parallels between fatphobia and homophobia are still striking — because of exactly what you’re saying: so much rests on the illusion of “choice,” and both fatness (i.e., perceived gluttony) and homosexuality are so deeply associated with sin.

  14. Melissa McEwan

    Upon weighing myself, they seemed disappointed that I didn’t cry, as according to them, everyone cries in the scale room.

    Good fucking god. I don’t even know how to respond, except (hug), and good for you for not giving those assholes the satisfaction–although they never should have been given the goddamned option.

  15. Arkades

    > The same presumptions used to be made about homosexuality, btw.

    …and are *still* being made all too frequently, sad to say. But to dwell on that would be to miss the point, I suppose.

    Unjust though it is, the current state of things seems to be that fat people are still ‘fair game’, whereas public opinion has made most other minority groups unacceptable targets.

    Granted, that doesn’t mean no one ever lashes out at said targets – it still happens all too often – but when it happens, people tend to take notice and publicly disapprove. (Consider the recent flaps about the remarks of Imus and Washington, among others.)

    There is no similar defense of fat people, nor any backlash against media personalities, journalists, or others who take cheap shots at Teh Fattiez in order to score points with Everyone Else. Making fat people the targets of public scorn and derision is still very much in vogue, whether it’s mean-spirited humor or self-righteous scolding.

  16. Rose

    I wrote this little poem a few weeks ago out of frustration. Because it’s not one of my better poems, I didn’t really want to share it. I’m not so much shy about my poetry, except when I think it’s sub-par, which this kind of is. But this fucking article made me want to share it with you, I don’t care if it sucks as poetry, somehow it just fits.

    An Ode to the Obesity Epidemic

    Why can’t the fatties stop being so fat?
    Don’t say too much consumption’s ‘bout my SUV’s gas
    ‘Cause the fault all lies in your great, big, fat ass
    So why can’t the fatties stop being so fat?

    Why can’t the fatties get out of my face?
    You’re gross and disgusting and take up too much space
    I’m not a redneck ‘cause racists are a disgrace
    I don’t hate you for your color, just your fat, ugly face!

    Why can’t the fatties just face facts?
    You cost us a fortune in higher tax
    That money could go for bombing kids in Iraq (terrorist kids, of course!)
    So why can’t the fatties just face facts?

    Why can’t the fatties do like I do?
    I snort coke and smoke and I puke up my food
    Standing for all that is pure and healthy and true
    So why can’t the fatties do like I do?

  17. Kate Harding

    Angelos, Jess wrote a great post about that article, which sums up my issues with it.

  18. I have to admit that I couldn’t even read the direct quotations of the article. It’s just too hurtful and disturbing. The “devolution of the species” comment did catch my eye, though, since it reminded me very much of something a doctor at Yale Medical Center told me while I was in graduate school. I went to him in absolute despair because I had gained 25 pounds after going off Phen-Fen (even though I hadn’t changed my lifestyle) and was hoping he might be able to help me. He was actually one of the kindest physicians I’ve ever met, and instead of giving me the standard “Well, fattie, it’s just a matter of calories in-calories out!” speech, he gently explained to me that it was to be expected that I would gain weight after going off a dangerous drug and that given my genetic background and history with weight (i.e. having been fat since at least 6 or 7 years old) that I would likely see the same result from any future drugs or diets. He encouraged me to stay active and eat well, as I had been doing, and then he said, “You know, you’re really the pinacle of evolution. Your body is doing exactly what the species has been programmed to do for thousands of years. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to overcome that.”

    But you know, I’m sure Yale Medical School physician knows nothing compared to this asshat.

  19. GOD DAMMIT this pisses me off.

    No, it more than pisses me off. It fucking ENRAGES me. Mean does not equal funny. At all. EVER. It never has.

    And? Making fun of a group of people just because they’re fat – so far over the fucking line it’s not funny. Why is it OK to make fun of fat people? To discriminate and hate against them?

    Before I knew there was a fat acceptance movement out there, before I had the knowledge and understanding of what it means to be fat in a society that’s entirely prepared to hate you, to look down on you, for something that is merely a happenstance of physicality, putting fat people at the butt of jokes or as the reason for the downfall of society always made my heart sink. Because it’s mean. Because, somehow, fat makes it A-OK.

    Why the fuck does it?

    I’m not a thin person. I have a close friend who is witty, smart, funny, and beautiful – yet hates and hides herself because she’s fat. It makes me so fucking angry – especially because it’s articles like this, movies like that Dane Cook clip you posted, the constant bombardment of thin=beauty=good that we fucking breathe in that causes her to hate herself. Causes me to hate my pot-belly and earth-mother hips.

    FUCK.

    And DrNick – that’s fucking barbaric what they put you through. I’m so sorry. Assholes.

  20. Melissa McEwan

    …and are *still* being made all too frequently, sad to say. But to dwell on that would be to miss the point, I suppose.

    Fair point, Arkades. I should have clarified I meant even among progressives. Now at least most progressives have gotten on board with the “gay isn’t a choice” thing. Or, better yet, that it doesn’t matter if it is a choice because it’s no one’s fucking business.

  21. leeann

    what hospital could be run so unprofessionally! i am a nurse and anyone who acted like that at my hospital would be fired. we also have bariatric scales in appropriate areas. i would bring a lawyer to my next weigh in if i were you. that would shut them up.

  22. Kate Harding

    DrNick, hugs from me, too. That’s fucking awful.

  23. I struggle with this. I know that people can be healthy at all kinds of sizes, but I also know that I am not healthy at my current weight. In addition, I have to have my hip replaced, and the doctor I want to perform the surgery (based on glowing recommendations from previous patients of his and a couple of OR nurses) will not do the surgery until I get to a healthier weight.

    I also know that the reason I’m fat is not because I’m supposed to be fat, but because I’m a compulsive overeater. So I want to eat healthier and not binge anymore.

    Anyway, I started going to Weight Watchers this Saturday. I’ve joined before, and I always lost weight and felt good, but something would always happen that triggered a binge, and then I would feel ashamed, and I would quit, and I would gain most of the weight back. I’ve never gained as much back as I weighed at my all-time top weight, but I always gained back most of it.

    This time, I’m doing the Core WW plan, which sort of builds in healthy eating – I don’t have to count points, but I can eat as much as I want of foods on their Core list. I think this might be a better plan for me because if I feel that panicky feeling that comes before a binge, I can at least binge on some healthier food.

    This is all stuff that I have to do for me. I will never be thin, but I need to be less fat than I am currently.

  24. Kate Harding

    I have to have my hip replaced, and the doctor I want to perform the surgery (based on glowing recommendations from previous patients of his and a couple of OR nurses) will not do the surgery until I get to a healthier weight.

    Maurinsky, I just want to point out that that’s straight-up discrimination, and it’s horrible. It’s also common.

    The short version of that article I just linked to: there’s virtually no evidence suggesting that weight loss should be necessary before you get the surgery, or that you would benefit less from the surgery than a thinner person.

    Overcoming compulsive overeating/binge eating is a whole different ball of wax from just adopting a Health at Every Size approach to your body, and I wish you all the best with that. But you should NOT be denied this surgery until you lose weight.

    If nothing else, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for you to exercise with a new hip?

  25. Jewel

    “If nothing else, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for you to exercise with a new hip?”

    No kidding! My dad had his knees replaced last November, and before the surgery he literally could barely walk. He’s been athletic all his life, loves to bike and run and hike, and it was killing him not being able to exercise. He was putting on weight, getting out of shape, miserable. Now that he can work out again, he’s much happier and healthier. Maurinsky, best of luck. I hope you can find a doc who will do the surgery so you can get on with your life.

  26. Kate217

    Maurinsky, if you truly eat “compulsively,” Weight Watchers is not the answer. If there’s a compulsion, it’s not just a matter of discipline. You really shoud speak with a doctor and/or therapist to get at the underlying issue (physiological, emotional, or both) if you want to get past that. Good luck.

    As for that abomination of an article, what ever happened to fact checking? Not only is it the most hateful piece of trip I’ve encoiuntered in quite a while, it has blatant factual errors in it. Even the CDC have recanted that fucking “300,000” figure. Their current “100,000” figure is thought by one of the study’s scientists to be quadruple the actual number, but it’s still only a third of the number quoted. As far as I’m concerned, any reporter who gets an easily-verifiable fact wrong loses all credibility.

  27. NameChanged

    I too have mixed feelings about my fattness. I look great, and I feel alright, but I could feel better. My joints are naturally weak, and I am putting extra strain on them with the extra weight. This is what is driving me to get into a healthier lifestyle.

    I am not, however, driven to weigh 130 pounds, nor do I wish to have my clavicle readily visible through my skin. All I want is to be able to run and play with my child when she is born.

    As to the devolution of the species, I believe that is evident in assholes like O’Neill. Let’s all be mean to the fat kid is so 3rd grade.

  28. Phran

    Thanks Kate for ranting on this…really. Reading your take and the comments here makes up for reading the article…ugh. My jaw just kinda dropped, ya know?

    Thanks again…xoxo

  29. Meowser

    I actually wrote this assclown rag an irate letter yesterday ripping them a shiny new pink orifice for publishing this crappity crap crap crap. Unfortunately, I was so hot between the ears that I misspelled the author’s name and made a few other embarrassing typos. I wish I’d been as cool and methodical and articulate about my orifice-ripping as you, Kate.

  30. Pingback: The Rotund » Out of control

  31. Angelos

    Thanks for the follow-up link Kate. That was a good analysis of what was a good article until the conclusion that even though diets don’t work, people should diet.

    I wonder if that was just poorly written. If he meant “diet” as in eat good food, as opposed to “dieting,” he surely didn’t express it well.

  32. Maurinsky, if you truly eat “compulsively,” Weight Watchers is not the answer. If there’s a compulsion, it’s not just a matter of discipline. You really shoud speak with a doctor and/or therapist to get at the underlying issue (physiological, emotional, or both) if you want to get past that. Good luck

    Well, WW costs $9.92 a week and has meetings that are convenient, in the evenings and on weekends. Therapy costs $75.00 a week (at a minimum!) and only takes place during working hours, which means I’d have to either take sick time (which is not unlimited) or unpaid time off.

    I come from a long line of alcoholics, and I don’t have a problem with alcohol, I’ve transferred that same addiction over to food instead. All the doctors I’ve talked to about my compulsion suggested Overeaters Anonymous, and that organization put me into a constant state of depression and misery and obsession – I felt horrible when I attended the meetings and I routinely would binge just to feel a little better.

  33. Pingback: Speaking of Not Funny Anymore « Shapely Prose

  34. Meowser

    I didn’t find OA particularly useful in dealing with compulsive overeating either. If anything I, like you, Maurinsky, found it more triggering. The writings of Geneen Roth, Carol Munter and Susie Orbach were much more useful to me. (There are also Overcoming Overeating groups based on Munter’s first book, and many of these are free.)

    And I second that it blows giant ocarinas that they won’t do this surgery until you’re thinner. I mean, how cruel can they get, saying someone has to remain in excruciating pain until they can squeeze into a certain pants size?

  35. Kate Harding

    Maurinsky, I hear you. The problem with saying “compulsive overeating is a separate problem that needs treatment” is that so little is known about HOW to treat it — and fatphobia drives many of the people claiming to treat it. And (other issues with OA — and I have some myself — aside), you can’t base recovery on a model that requires abstinence. Even abstinence from “trigger foods” just creates a new kind of disordered eating.

    It’s really an awful bind. That’s why my first response was simply, “good luck.” Because sadly, that’s about all I’ve got. (And it’s extremely sad for me personally, because there are people I love with the same problem.)

    I’m no fan of WW — largely because I believe anything that requires an obsession with food (i.e., any diet) is probably not the answer to an eating disorder — but basically, I have no good answers for you. So I’ll just say I hope you stand up to any doctor who tries to bully you, because that is NOT OKAY, no matter what size you are or how you feel about it.

  36. Melissa McEwan

    I wonder if that was just poorly written. If he meant “diet” as in eat good food, as opposed to “dieting,” he surely didn’t express it well.

    Angelos, I had the same thought when I read the article. “Why is he using ‘diet’ when he seems to mean ‘eat healthy’?” And I’m not sure that’s a reflection on his poor writing as much as a reflection of the presumption that all fatties eat like horses, i.e. if you’re a fatty who “eats healthy” you must be on a “diet” from the usual truckload of crap you eat every day.

  37. I’m no fan of WW — largely because I believe anything that requires an obsession with food (i.e., any diet)

    See, I’ve done WW before, and I never felt like it was a diet, like the kind you find in magazines. It felt like a way to order my eating, and to encourage myself to make better choices, and stepping on the scale once a week and seeing a weight loss was hugely encouraging for me (I really need someone on the outside to confirm that I’m doing a good job – remember the episode of The Simpsons where the schools closed, and Lisa was jonesing for a grade? That’s me.) I always felt good when I was successfully working with WW. I only felt bad when I fell off the wagon, which was inevitably my response to something that had nothing to do with WW.

    Now, the doctor thing….I want this doctor. Hip replacement is now considered routine surgery, one of the very few negative side effects is infection, and this doctor has the lowest rates of infection and everyone I know who had their hip replaced by him had a hugely positive experience. I’m okay with losing weight before the surgery, I don’t feel discriminated against, I want to be at a good weight while I recover.

  38. And Kate – I’m always obsesssed with food. I watch the Food Porn channel, I subscribe to Cooking Light, Everyday Food, I have a kajillion cookbooks, I wake up thinking about what I’m going to eat today.

  39. Meowser

    Flashback: About a year ago, the Willamette Week published a bit of snark (just one paragraph) in one of their columns about Stacy Bias’s Fat Girl Speaks anthology book (which she had contacted the WWeek to spread the word about). The fat community here in PDX rallied around Stacy, threatened advertiser boycotts and so on, and the author (Karla Starr) wound up apologizing for what she wrote. You can view the whole shebang (what Starr wrote and the fallout thereof) right here.

    http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3243/7935/

    What Jaime O’Neill wrote is much, much worse than Starr’s bit of snark, by orders of magnitude. I’m wondering if any Sacto-area fatties could take up this particular gauntlet?

  40. Meowser

    Maurinsky, how you want to eat, or not eat, is your business. If you really love WW, go. If weight loss is that important to you and nothing else will do, and it’s physically possible for you, then do what makes you happiest. Me, I can’t lose weight, not without undertaking drastic, life-threatening, measures that eat up every ounce of time and energy I have, not even after ceasing to overeat compulsively. Many of us are in the same boat.

    But I think all we are saying here is you do not deserve to be treated with the kind of contempt that is highlighted in the article above or others like it. Even if you knocked over a Pizza Hut and devoured the contents meal after meal, you’d still a human being, you’d still deserve respect and basic dignity just because of that. You haven’t broken any laws by being fat or even by eating “too much.” You do not deserve to be treated like a criminal, and neither does any other fat person just because of their measurements.

  41. Kate217

    Well, WW costs $9.92 a week and has meetings that are convenient, in the evenings and on weekends. Therapy costs $75.00 a week (at a minimum!) and only takes place during working hours, which means I’d have to either take sick time (which is not unlimited) or unpaid time off.

    I’m sorry to push, I really am concerned, not just a concern troll. If the structure of WW works for you, more power to you, and I wish you all the best. If you want therapy, most municipalities have a mental health department that has flexible hours and a sliding scale based on what you can pay.

    I know exactly the toll that having alcoholic parents takes, so I grok the “one obsession with another” concept. I hope that everything works out the way that you want it to, and that what you want is all you hope it will be. 😀

  42. This is all reminding me also of yesterday’s discussion on The Rotund about the Speisel piece on Slate regarding journalists and editors. To my mind, the worst thing about this disgusting piece of bigotry disguised as cleverness is not that O’Neill wrote it. Because God knows there are all kinds of people out there writing all kinds of ridiculous, bigoted nonsense. What upsets me is that there is an editorial team at that newspaper who actually sat down, read the piece, and thought (in the Opusian tradition), “Let’s run this baby!” At best, I guess it can be seen as a cynical business decision: They knew it would generate controversy, AKA interest in their paper. At worst, it’s that this bunch of “alternative” staffers actually found this to be a valid point of view worthy of disseminating to the public.

    I could give a shit about O’Neill. He is not going to be swayed by a thousand emails. The editors, OTOH, just might think twice the next time they see a piece like this if we can make the outcry loud enough. I’d also be interested to know who advertises in this paper, as they should know what kind of hatred they are helping to sponsor.

  43. Angelos

    presumption that all fatties eat like horses

    Well, most Americans eat crap. But if you’re naturally skinny, no one says anything.

    I was shopping yesterday, and as usual had a cart full of things that needed to be weighed by the cashier. Tomatoes, peppers, bananas, potatoes, etc… The couple behind me? 6 boxes of sugar-bomb cereal, 2 gallons of “juice” (i.e. 2% juice, a lot of corn syrup, and water), some pudding cups, and that’s about it. Probably $35, and not a single food item. He was skin and bones, she not so much, but that’s irrelevant. It still pisses me off to no end to see that.

    “Dieting” may be a scam, but this nation really needs to work on “diet.”

  44. Pingback: fat fu Notes from the Fatosphere «

  45. But I think all we are saying here is you do not deserve to be treated with the kind of contempt that is highlighted in the article above or others like it.

    Oh, I totally agree that no one should be treated the way O’Neill thinks fat peoplee should be treated!

  46. Kate Harding

    Angelos, I hear what you’re saying, but just for the record, when the grocery cart subject came up (as it often does) on a fat blog recently, one of the commenters said, “If you looked at my cart in Safeway, you’d see nothing but processed and packaged food. That’s because I buy all my produce at the local farmer’s market, where it’s fresher.”

    Not necessarily true of the couple you saw, but a reminder that the grocery cart doesn’t always tell the whole story.

  47. Nice breakdown, as always, Kate.

  48. Kate Harding

    Oh, also, to get really jerky about it, the worst-looking grocery cart I ever pushed contained loads of the cheapest possible canned and processed foods, juice that was mostly HFCS, fruit packed in syrup, vegetables canned with tons of salt, about a dozen boxes of mac and cheese, absolutely nothing fresh or even frozen.

    That’s because I was loading up the cart to make a donation to a food bank, and that was the best I could do to get the most non-perishable food for the money I had to spend. Which kinda dovetails with Liss’s first point in this thread. Just sayin’.

  49. Maurinsky – all therapy does not take place during working hours. Many of us see clients evenings and weekends because we know people work.

    And if you have health insurance (I’m guessing so due to you talking about getting hip replacement surgery), you should (barring some damn loophole) have mental health benefits. If you qualify for a “parity diagnosis” (of which depression is one) you’re covered at the same rate as you are for physical illness.

    The constant food thinking? Won’t be solved with willpower, nor with MORE focus on regulating food.

  50. Angelos

    We use the farmer’s market for seasonal/local, and the grocery store for the rest. And I’ve done the canned food thing too for the post office drives, but I usually grab stuff from our pantry (chicken breast [we try to avoid tuna], baked beans, pasta, etc.) which we buy in bulk from BJs. Erica just writes checks to the 2 local pantries that got us on their bleeding heart lists…

    But if that’s 2 out of 10 people, the other 8 are still too much.

    I blame Big Food as well though. Even fucking “Healthy Choice” is loaded with too much salt and MSG. I friggin’ wish I could stock up on the occasional can of soup, because even I get sick of cooking every day or every other day. I love NE Clam Chowder. But it’s all crap. I look at the ingredients on the label, and just figure I’ll do it myself.

    I do realize, of course, I have an advantage with my location and my financial situation. Still, I don’t want to hear how expensive it is to eat well when Doritos cost more per-pound than chicken.

    I could feed the two of us for a week, very healthily, for that $35 that couple spent on sugar.

  51. “But the parallels between fatphobia and homophobia are still striking — because of exactly what you’re saying: so much rests on the illusion of “choice,” and both fatness (i.e., perceived gluttony) and homosexuality are so deeply associated with sin.

    As a fat dyke, I am just so fucked.

    My revenge is that I am deliriously happy with myself and my life.

    Bwahahahahaha!

  52. Angelos, I think it’s great that you could do that for them. But, please, let’s also consider that genuine, unbiased education about nutrition is pretty slim (no pun intended) on the ground and most people are just making do. The only time I buy fresh ingredients is when I KNOW I’m using them that night. Otherwise my schedule and my fickle, fickle desire to actually cook and eat tasty food usually guarantee that those lovely fresh things will wind up a bag of goo in the bottom of my crisper. That isn’t saving me any money.

    I agree that a lot of American’s eat woefully non-nutritious meals but I think the issue is more complex than can be answered by just being mad at individuals. Our nation’s entire relationship with food is, if you’ll excuse my language, fucked seven ways to Tuesday.

  53. Meowser

    Where I live, chicken breasts go for $6.99 a pound. Thighs, $4.99 a pound. Doritos? About $2.99 for a bag a little under a pound. Which, at the rate I go through them on those rare occasions I buy them, lasts about a month — as opposed to the chicken, which will be gone within a week. Virtually no one who truly has equal access to a good quality protein source and corn chips will choose to live on the latter.

    Also, as others have mentioned, you don’t know what that couple already had in their house or who else they might be shopping for.

    But thank you for acknowledging that many thin people consume more than their share of sugary cereal and pudding cups, also.

  54. Melissa McEwan

    Even fucking “Healthy Choice” is loaded with too much salt and MSG.

    You know what makes avoiding shit like that really easy (for me)? Not having a microwave. I’m not going to stick frozen food in the damn oven for an hour or whatever, which is a waste of time and resources. We literally buy almost no frozen food. Right now, my freezer has nothing in it but frozen peas and some fresh perch. And that’s completely typical.

    Also, our oven has been broken for like a year or something; we haven’t been able to afford to get it fixed/replaced, and I rarely miss it. The stovetop still works for boiling, steaming, and sautéing (and the occasional British fry-up Mr. Shakes makes for himself), and right now, I’ve got (skinless, white meat) chicken and potatoes cooking in the crock pot. Basically, I couldn’t cook stuff like “Healthy Choice” even if I wanted to.

    Which, since I need to watch my sodium intake, I don’t. 🙂

  55. Kate Harding

    My revenge is that I am deliriously happy with myself and my life.

    Bwahahahahaha!

    Portly Dyke, awesome.

    Angelos, I am absolutely no fan of big food, so we see eye to eye there. However, I’m wary of “Trans fats and sodium and HFCS are teh devil!” arguments being used as a smokescreen for fatphobia. (I’m not accusing you of that, just speaking generally.) Too many people try to play “This is what’s causing the obesity crisis!” as a trump card, instead of just saying, simply, “This shit is unhealthy, and it’s time we put people’s health over corporate profits.” Because fat = unhealthy in so many people’s minds, the focus ends up being on the fat, not the demonstrable health risks. And you know how I get about the muddying of that important distinction.

    Also, to buy and cook chicken, you gotta have your gas/electricity turned on, you gotta have a fridge that works, you gotta have time and energy between however many jobs you work to cook, and as Meowser said, you gotta have money for dinner tomorrow night, too. And as Melissa said, you gotta have somewhere that sells fresh meat in your neighborhood, or somewhere you have the time and transportation to get to.

    I realize I’m not accounting for everybody, or even most people, stocking up on Doritos and Hi-C there. But the point is, it’s a complicated issue, and it’s most definitely a class issue, among other things. (Which you acknowledged.) And the fact that it’s a class issue most definitely plays into people focusing on judging fatties instead of thinking about the big picture here.

    Also, all of that aside, people do have a right to make unhealthy choices. As The Rotund would say, health is not a moral imperative.

  56. Angelos

    Where I live, chicken breasts go for $6.99 a pound.

    Holy crap! I don’t pay half that. Still, I tend to buy the whole chicken as often as the breasts.

    However, I’m wary of “Trans fats and sodium and HFCS are teh devil!” arguments being used as a smokescreen for fatphobia.

    HFCS is the devil. It really is.
    http://www.westonaprice.org/modernfood/highfructose.html
    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2004/02/18/FDGS24VKMH1.DTL

    You’re right that these are two separate issues. If HFCS were to disappear today, it wouldn’t turn us into a nation of supermodels. But we don’t need to be poisoning ourselves, regardless of what our genes handed us.

  57. Cindy M

    Meowser, I am a Sacto-based fattie, but I’m afraid I’m way too cowardly to pick up that gauntlet. Hell, I couldn’t even read more than the first few sentences–that is a very painful, creepy piece of work! I’m really grateful to you for writing to them, even if (or especially because) you were so angry you couldn’t write straight. 😉

    The inner terrified fat-hating part of me is still completely muffling and stifling and sitting on the foaming-at-the mouth furious part of me, to shut her up. However, I’ve been doing a LOT of lurking here and at other FA sites. You folks feed me in ways I never knew were possible. I can feel my self-hate getting chipped slowly away, but it’s still massive. (Forgive the tossed-metaphor salad; it’s late.)

    BTW, someone above wondered about the advertisers for this weekly. Unfortunately, the advertisers are anyone and everyone in town, with lots and lots of classified and personal ads that degenerate into massage and phone-sex ads towards the back. From the others I’ve seen, I’d say it’s a typical alternative weekly. I’ve seen some excellent articles in its pages, with occasional awfulness. But I’ve rarely known them to stoop to the depths of this cruel idiocy.

    Also, Jaime O’Neill blogs at The Smirking Chimp, and posted very nearly this same article over there on June 2: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/7849. I glanced at the first few comments, and there are some definite dissenters there. I’m too tired to read or think any more tonight; I’ll probably be back in lurkdom tomorrow.

  58. NameChanged, you might want to look into Feldenkrais or other methods of improving coordination. Somatics by Thomas Hanna is a good introduction. The general idea is that a lot of the difficulty in moving which is attributed to age, weight, or innate clumsiness is actually caused by not being able to feel what you’re doing, and gentle attentive movement can give you a more accurate kinesthetic sense.

    In re anti-fat prejudice and class: I’m not sure that the bigotry is about uneasiness about high consumption. I’ve noticed that the stereotype is always framed in terms of low status behavior. The idea is that getting fat is the result of eating lots of junk food while watching tv. It’s not eating filet mignon and imported triple cream cheeses. It’s not working a sedentary job with a long commute.

    There’s evidence that not getting enough sleep contributes to insulin resistance, but that doesn’t affect the stereotype. One time when I brought it up, the person I was talking to suggested that people aren’t getting enough sleep because they’re playing video games. While that certainly happens, there’s also the possibility of the aforementioned work/commute issue, not to mention taking care of small children, and doing creative work.

    I believe that the underlying prejudice behind the prejudice is resentment at the idea of low status people getting to do what they want.

  59. There’s evidence that not getting enough sleep contributes to insulin resistance, but that doesn’t affect the stereotype. One time when I brought it up, the person I was talking to suggested that people aren’t getting enough sleep because they’re playing video games.

    But how do they stuff the potato chips in their mouths if both their hands are busy with the video game? Obviously, this person did not think that argument through.

    Great point about the low-status behaviors, Nancy. Very true.

  60. Meowser

    I believe that the underlying prejudice behind the prejudice is resentment at the idea of low status people getting to do what they want.

    Yes yes yes yes yes. Goddess, how much of the fat-hate comes from overprivileged desk-jockey yuppiefucks who are all, “Oh, I looooove peasants, I just think they should look properly lean and hungry,” or, “I don’t care if you spend eight hours a day on your feet working a cash register or changing bedpans! You WILL spend two hours at the gym afterwards! You WILL! You WILL!”

    And Cindy M, I certainly wouldn’t expect you to take on this assclown car by standing in the street all by yourself. It’s much easier in a group. (Which is, of course, why the assclown car exists in the first place: herd mentality and alla that.)

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