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" I can look at my daughter and see that she is healthy, active, and athletic; but seeing the word “obese” on the paper left me feeling like the world’s worst mother."

That's the reaction a mother felt when seeing the results of her seven year old daughter's state mandated BMI screening.  Even though the letter specifically and emphatically says only a doctor can fully determine if she was obese, and that BMI is often not an accurate indicator of obesity, that word in that letter is "triggering so much concern, shame, and anger".

Obesity is an issue.  It can lead to a myriad of health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

But obese people are also the last socially acceptable group to bully and stigmatize.  last month, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller tweeted: “Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth.” In Georgia, billboards of overweight children are going up with messages like "Chubby kids may not outlive their parents," for example. Or: "Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did."

It's called "fat shaming".  The idea being that stigmatizing, bullying, and discriminating against obese people will somehow make them motivated to lose weight.  After all, they're just "concerned about their health", that's all.

But guess what?  Fat shaming DOES. NOT. WORK.  In fact, studies have shown it to have the OPPOSITE effect.

Rebecca Puhl, a Yale University psychologist who is a leading expert on weight discrimination, says the following:

"Whether children or adults, if they are teased or stigmatized, they're much more likely to engage in unhealthy eating and avoidance of physical activity."  Research by Puhl and her colleagues at Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity suggests that weight discrimination is pervasive — at schools, in the workplace, in the media, among health care providers. Yet efforts to combat it frequently founder: Only one state, Michigan, outlaws weight discrimination, and the anti-bullying policies proliferating in schools often lack specific content related to teasing of overweight children.
More from Dr. Puhl:
Puhl, who has studied weight discrimination for more than a decade, was lead author of a 2007 study of overweight children that concluded their quality of life, due to stigmatization by peers, was comparable to that of people with cancer.

She also has examined how obese people are portrayed in ads, news reports, movies and TV shows. Too often, says Puhl, they are depicted in needlessly negative ways — slouching on a sofa, eating junk food.

"We need to be sure we are fighting obesity, not obese people," she says.

Among other initiatives, the Rudd Center has compiled a gallery of photographs portraying obese individuals "in ways that are positive and non-stereotypical" — strolling outdoors, shopping for fresh produce.

Puhl says her research indicates Americans would support legislation to prohibit weight discrimination, particularly in the workplace.

I've mentioned that fat-shaming is still socially acceptable. That after all, "it's for their health". And so everyone becomes an expert:
“Many people, from your sister-in-law to ethics professors, think that the road to weight control runs directly through shame and humiliation,” bioethicist Art Caplan, the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center and an NBC News contributor, said in an email. “Common sense says that this is not likely to be true. Now this important study demonstrates that discriminating and shunning those who are fat does nothing to help them lose weight.
I know from personal experience what it's like.  Stares, teasing, snide comments.  In college, for example, there was a graduate assistant with the band that was several years older, and had been teaching in the schools for over ten years before he went for his Master's.  A bunch of us were in the band office, and we were discussing something about some of the outfits we were required to have.  I made a comment about sizing, and he went and made a real nasty remark.  Had I been the person I am today, I probably would have shoved him against the wall and put a little fear of God into him.  As it was, I gave him a look.  As did everyone else in the room.  Among some of the band people, I may not have been as popular as most, but I was one of them.  And the grad was not well liked to begin with.  And the secretary was also obese.  And she was respected and loved by all.  But I would still hear offhand remarks.  And jokes.  Not mean spirited, but still.  

And then there's family.  Oh yes, my brothers, oh so concerned, incessantly saying something.  Making me want to scream.  In fact I DID scream.  Here I am, pushing 600 pounds, screaming at my brothers to SHUT THE FUCK UP I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT I KNOW I'M FAT YOU ASSHOLES LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE! But they're just concern--I DON'T FUCKING CARE I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!

Yep.  That's the way it is.  

In fact, ETHICS PROFESSORS have advocated fat-shaming in the form of "social pressure" as a way to "motivate" people to lose weight. "But can there be social pressure that does not lead to outright discrimination—a kind of stigmatization lite?"  Seriously.  He thinks there can be.

But what happens when people fat shame other people?  The people they're "trying to help" do the EXACT OPPOSITE.

That's right.  A new study out authored by Angelina Sutin, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Fla, says that "weight discrimination INCREASES the risk for obesity".

From the introduction:

There is a pervasive stereotype about obesity in American society: People who are obese are often perceived as lazy, unsuccessful, and weak-willed [1]. These beliefs about individuals with obesity are often translated into negative attitudes [2], discrimination [3], and verbal and physical assaults [4]. Such bias can have severe psychological consequences, including increased vulnerability to depression [5], [6] and lower self-esteem [5], [7], self-acceptance [3], and life satisfaction [8]. A broad range of research now demonstrates that the effects of weight bias are not limited to psychological functioning but extend to nearly every aspect of an individual’s life, from employment [9], [10] and salary disparities [11], [12] to personal relationships [13] to healthcare delivery [14], [15]. In addition, as with other forms of discrimination [16], [17], weight discrimination may have consequences for physical health
For those who scoff and scorn when we compare the shaming and discrimination we get to that which other groups have gotten, let me say "fuck off".  Just because fat-shaming is still very much socially acceptable doesn't mean it's any less discriminatory or hateful.

And what did the study find?  That there was a direct correlation between weight discrimination and the chances for increased obesity.  EVEN among non-obese people who were exposed to weight discrimination.

Weight discrimination was associated with becoming obese between baseline and follow-up: Among participants who were not obese at baseline, those who reported weight discrimination were approximately 2.5 times more likely to be obese by follow-up than those who did not report weight discrimination (see Table 1). This effect was specific to weight discrimination; the other types of discrimination were largely unrelated to reported obesity. That is, none of the other types of discrimination assessed were associated with becoming obese between the two assessments.
And further:
Given the complex etiology of obesity, creative approaches that span diverse disciplines are needed to combat its spread. Weight discrimination, which is often justified because it is thought to help encourage obese individuals to lose weight [1], can actually have the opposite effect: it is associated with the development and maintenance of obesity.
It has been suggested that the labeling of obesity as a disease will help remove some stigma.  Maybe.  But I look at persons suffering from other diseases and the stigma associated with those diseases and I'm not so sure.

One thing I AM sure of is that for the individual, the decision to finally begin to permanently lose the weight is a big one.  It is one that can only be made when the person is READY to make that decision.  I was at 600 pounds and basically heading for an early death.  It took a harsh realization for me to finally make the decision.  

And once that decision is made, it's not an easy thing to do.  After all, you don't NEED cigarettes to survive.  You don't NEED alcohol to survive.  But you do need food to survive. And that's what makes losing weight so hard. And to hear someone who has never struggled with weight, who has never battled a food addiction, have the presumption to offer UNSOLICITED "advice"?

It's a slap in the face.  It's the world saying "You're not good enough". To struggle, and to hear people talk about how "easy" losing weight is, or that "all you have to do" is whatever they suggest, is to be constantly told that you are inferior because you keep struggling and losing the weight is so hard, but all of society is telling you that it's so easy, so you MUST be inferior.

That's not a good place to be.  Especially when you need to make important life decisions. Because it can lead to the wrong decisions.  Bad choices.  Self sabotage. And ultimately you withdraw into your depression and self hatred and just don't care anymore.

So the next time you want to "offer advice", or think that you can motivate someone by doing a little fat shaming, remember that you are actually doing the opposite and contributing to that person's continued obesity and feelings of worthlessness.

Originally posted to zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Weight Loss Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And if you think it's bad out in the real world, (38+ / 0-)

    Think about the fat shaming that goes on in the gym.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:10:39 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this (12+ / 0-)

    The tweet about obese PhD students makes me angry. My late brother weighed nearly 300 pounds when he completed his PhD dissertation. (He didn't die from a classic weight-related complication like heart trouble -- he had pancreatic cancer.) I've noticed also that the "obese" people in my life are often highly motivated and effective when it comes to looking out for someone else's needs, but really not good at putting themselves first. Maybe there's sampling bias here -- maybe it's just the kinds of people I tend to know -- but the pattern I see is that they were repeatedly given the message that they don't matter at all and that they should focus on making sure other people are happy. So the idea that they're just lazy is obvious BS, and the idea that making them feel even worse is going to help is insane.

  •  This is so true: (10+ / 0-)
    But obese people are also the last socially acceptable group to bully and stigmatize.
    There was a lot of fat-shaming in my own family. Blistering, awful stuff. I sidestepped it, being naturally slim. But it predisposed me to indulge in this particular form of bigotry, for much of my adult life, without qualm.

    Important diary, thanks.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:43:09 AM PDT

  •  Of course ridicule will lead some to more (4+ / 0-)

    unhealthy decisions OR to lack the motivation to take on more healthy ones.

    I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life. - Aldous Snow

    by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:52:03 AM PDT

    •  Stress and lack of sleep (5+ / 0-)

      are also known to lead to weight gain.  I would say it's not always about making decisions to eat worse or exercise less, but could be about lowered energy, increased hunger, altered hormones and insulin levels, which make fat storage biologically easier, etc.  It's simplistic to say that weight gain is ONLY a result of bad decisions.  

      •  Yeah, a bad thyroid will make gaining weight (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zenbassoon

        very easy and very difficult to get rid of.  I believe that bad thyroids are under diagnosed in the world in general.  The accepted scale for TSH is 0.5 to around 4.5 (the upper number has been in flux for the past 5-7 years).  But, what is 'right' for one person isn't 'right' for another.  There is a very wide range of opinions even among the thyroid specialists as to when it's time to treat a bad thyroid.

      •  Sleep is extremely important (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zenbassoon

        On average, North American kids get an hour less sleep now than kids did a few decades ago.

        Hormones like ghrelin, leptin, human growth hormone, and cortisol are all affected by sleep loss.

        People like to blame television for kids gaining weight, but studies of children have shown that kids of all weights watch about the same amount of TV.

        Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman wrote about this in their fantastic book, Nurtureshock.

  •  There are some major assumptions about obesity: (13+ / 0-)

    1.) The BMI is an accurate and meaningful measure of whether someone is overweight. It isn't.
    2.) That being overweight is a major cause of ill health.
    This may well be a case of reverse correlation. It may well be that, say, heart disease, is a cause of inactivity, hence obesity rather than an effect.
    3.) That weight gain is due to lack of willpower. Not true. When I turned 31 I started to gain weight, even though I was bicycling (at high speed) 20 miles a day and swimming more than a mile a day. (This had been my routine for the previous 10 years and I continued it another 5 years.)
       I know many people who have starved themselves and worn themselves down with exercise to no avail.
       If the common understanding of obesity - that its a function of overeating and lack of exercise - were true, there would be far fewer people who are overweight.
       But the math is overwhelming. One pound of body weight = about 3000 calories. World class bicyclists average 25 mph and burn about 700 calories per hour. IOW, you would have to ride a bicycle more than 100 miles at racing speeds to lose one pound of fat.
    Or, walk about 30 miles.
      Or, fast for 1 and a half days.

    The reasons that some people gain weight while others, with similar diets and activity do not, isn't well understood. And those fortunate enough not to have a weight problem grossly underestimate the effort required to lose weight.
       "Fat shaming" is cruel and pointless. Moreover, by encouraging the chronically overweight to engage in dangerous things like crash dieting or running, it encourages illness and injury.

  •  2 questions: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, johnny wurster

    1. Do you think medical definitions of overweight and obese are 'fat shaming'?

    2. How can society positively reinforce and encourage those with weight conditions conducive to health problems, to begin or continue more healthy lifestyles?

    (hopefully the answer to the above would also work for those appear at healthy weight but have cholesterol issues, etc)

    I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life. - Aldous Snow

    by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:54:28 AM PDT

    •  As more medical knowledge becomes available, (6+ / 0-)

      hopefully there will be a more clinical discussion. And as far as medical/health issues like diabetes and heart conditions, leave obesity out of it and concentrate on the condition you're trying to prevent--like in an anti-diabetes campaign, don't show obese people eating fatty foods and sweets, show normal people gorging on the Paula Deen diet.  Promote the lifestyle as a way to prevent illness, not as a way to lose weight.

      Fat doesn't mean not healthy, and vice versa.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:03:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Idiot" and "moron" used to be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon

      clinical descriptions. I don't have any answers to your questions, just wanted to point that out.

      One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

      by Darwinian Detritus on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:42:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The definitions might not be fat-shaming, (4+ / 0-)

      but the doctor certainly often is.

      The definitions themselves are a bit misleading, if say, a bodybuilder goes to the doctor they may be berated for being obese, when they are muscular.  It is also harmful to thin people if the doctor looks at their BMI and says "great, you're doing everything right", making assumptions about their lifestyle, while that person might be eating a junk food diet with no exercise.   Treating weight as being a proxy for health is harmful to either. Why not ask ALL patients about exercise and diet?  If a fat person tells you they are eating 1200 calories a day, perhaps a doctor could look into possible health causes of their weight, rather than calling them a liar.  

      Look into the concept of Health At Any Size...  it is a focus on adopting healthy lifestyles, NOT with an emphasis on weight loss, but with a goal of having a healthy lifestyle.  If a person is 100 lbs overweight, and starts eating well and exercising to lose weight, but doesn't lose a pound, they will likely eventually say "this isn't working" and quit.  If their goal is to be healthier, they can still appreciate their improved strength and energy, better skin, their dropping cholesterol levels, etc, and they WILL be healthier.

    •  Not by calling them (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon

      (or "us"; I was very nearly obese not 8 months ago and now am not) names, not by insinuating that they are only overweight because that are lazy or lack willpower, and not by sneering at any small (regardless of insignificant) efforts to change that state of affairs.

      You have to love yourself to change yourself.  You have to love yourself in order to see clearly whether or not you want to.

      I have a lot of sympathy for the HAES movement, even as several aspects of it frustrate me.  Encouragement to exercise is great.  It's not generally going to get an overweight person to lose very much, as moderate exercise of the kind most people have time for or are capable of just doesn't create the kind of calorie deficit needed to lose a lot of pounds.  But it's more important for health than losing weight is, for most people.  There are so many barriers to exercise for people who are overweight, and not all are physical.  Work on removing them; people will do better.

      There are lots of structural changes that can be made.  I recently read about an initiative somewhere or other to allow SNAP cards to be used to purchase foods from a farmer's market.  There was so much demand that they ran out of funds halfway through the summer.  Obesity and poverty are strongly linked; alleviate the latter or blunt its effects on food purchase, and you'll probably help obesity as well.

      For people of normal means; well, Bloomberg's been ridiculed left right and center for trying to do it, but things like outlawing or otherwise disincentivizing the least healthy products of "big food" would probably help.  Get the crap out of schools and healthy food in.  So many calorie-laden foods taste honestly, truly, godAWFUL to people who haven't become accustomed to eating them every day.  Do we have to habituate our children to them the first chance we get?

      So many things to be done, but people would rather tell fat people how they're going to die early and it's all their own fault and we don't want to pay for your medical bills you lazy slob ... even though it doesn't work to change anything.

    •  I could be wrong, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, serendipityisabitch

      something in your wording of #2 strikes me as interesting. When you ask "how can society positively reinforce and encourage those with weight conditions..." -- it kind of sounds as if

      1. overweight people aren't part of society -- they stand outside of it
      2. society has the power to help fix overweight people by 'positively reinforcing' behavior

      I'm not trying to pick on you personally, but the wording struck me as a reflection of a particular model of 'how things work' that we are all exposed to quite often, and that is related to what the diarist is talking about. Just to give you some idea of what I mean, I can suggest a few different ways of asking roughly the same question, but they each invoke different mental models (which could in turn have their own problems -- I'm just throwing out some ideas here):

      Are there ways that we all collectively tend to contribute to messaging that makes it harder for overweight people to create healthy lifestyles for themselves? And if so, is there any way we can change that?

      Are there any ways that we can support people with weight issues who want to make nutritional and lifestyle choices that will lead to greater health?

      Are there ways that we can change societal messaging to assist people in becoming healthier rather than sabotage their efforts?

      etc.

  •  Thank you! (9+ / 0-)

    This is one of the best diaries I've read in a very long time, and it could be because I understand your frustrations.

    According to national standards, I am about 40 pounds overweight, and I recently started trying to lose it. Needless to say, this has been the hardest struggle of my life. It is hard! It's a lot harder than just going to a gym and losing the weight; it's also psychological. I have to stop habits that I've had for at least 15 years (I'm currently 25) and it's not a walk in the park.

    Again, thank you for posting this. :)  

  •  dignity matters (8+ / 0-)

    and when you strip it from any person it has painful long lasting effects.

    There isn't one good excuse to do it to people over any perceived flaw you believe they must work on.  Period. People who announce things like "I am just trying to save their life" might want to think of the quality of that life to always be seen as something others feel free to insult and deride.

    The schools where I live are doing a very good job promoting healthy lifestyle and nutrition these days. They would see behavior that labels children in this way as degrading and an invitation to bully. They teach that diversity means all shapes, sizes, colors, and cultures. There is something wrong with a school district that is not working to educate and is instead working to shame.

  •  They think we have a choice (13+ / 0-)

    Not one of us chooses to be obese.  The "Normals" have no idea of the issues we face.  Being sure that chairs in a restaurant , theater , work,  and many other places 'fit'; being passed over for promotions ; getting into a car and let's not even begin to discuss Airline seats  and rules.

    I sometimes view others who are normal size and wish i could experience life their way,  but it is just a daydream.

    Mostly I object to the stereotypes and the common belief that we are fat, lazy and stupid.  We are normal in most ways, we have this one 'issue'.  

    It is not a choice , it is a predisposition with too many factors for most to quantify or even understand.   Advice or admonishment from others does not help.  Medical Doctors are among the worst advice givers they judge us IMMEDIATELY even if we came in with a broken finger.

     Sorry for the Rant,  I appreciate your post and your insight

  •  Thank you for this diary. (5+ / 0-)

    I am certain that I have said hurtful things -  but unintentionally.  I worry about the amount of obesity in our country - but  I consider this an issue of our society and food system (advertising, processed food, etc..) not an individual issue.  I try not to 'fat shame', but perhaps I do (?)

       I always cheer on someone I'm passing in a race - I am not a fast runner by any means, and I know how hard running is.  Plus I love when someone gives me encouragement when they pass me.  I never thought it might be seen in another light.

    I'd appreciate another diary to give some effective ways to give support.   I will have open ears and heart.

    •  I think modeling a healthy lifestyle helps. (7+ / 0-)

      And being supportive of any steps in the right direction, with understanding that this is a process.

      And then too, some people are just big. I know that my own goal weight is probably something a lot of people will call overweight, but I'm from a long and proud line of big Scandinavian farmers. I'm the shortest woman in the family at 5'7". The men average 6'2", with football builds. Normal on me is distinctly more so than on many people. So be comfortable with some normal variation.

      When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

      by Alexandra Lynch on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 08:09:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In a race situation, there's a protocol, and (4+ / 0-)

      especially in my tris, it's like a club.  Yeah, I'm the slowest, but I'm in the club. So I get the standard "You got this" and "Great job" they always give to the ones in the very back of the pack as they are being passed.  

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 08:13:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need to make sure fat-shaming is no longer (9+ / 0-)

    socially acceptable any more than any other kind of bullying.  This article is a great step in the right direction.  

  •  The results seem overstated. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon

    The authors report that being discriminated against for obesity increased the chances of being obese by 2.5 times.  However, although not statistically significant, the chances of becoming obese for those being discriminated against for other reason (i.e., weight or age) increased by about 1.2 times on average.  It seems that one should subtract the odds for unrelated discrimination from that for weight, which means the odds ratio for weight discrimination would fall to 1.3 from 2.5.

    Or maybe I don't understand the statistics or logic of the analysis.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:21:41 AM PDT

  •  Shame is not healthy. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene, zenbassoon

    Fat shaming is abusive. But why leap from providing clinical data to shaming? That's a pretty negative choice. In fact it may be symptomatic.

    BMI is what it is, data, together with other data it becomes information about health and disease. It's ammunition for taking constructive action.

    The choice to emphasize issues of shame and social stigma are different from the choice of how to use the data and it's apparently interfering in this mother's case with deciding if or how to use the data.

    Rather than allow self or social images actually stigmatize I hope we get even more scientific and clinical about health data. Let's develop more assertive ways to use even earlier data than childhood BMI to promote healthy lifestyles. Early childhood trauma (e.g., neglect, abuse, deaths, divorce, poverty, addictions) actually precedes and causes up to 80% of increases in BMI, brain development impairment and (therefore?) chronic and acute adult diseases like addictions (e.g., food, drugs), heart disease, and cancer.

    If we break a leg by a lifestyle choice like skiing we fix it. If a hematacrit show we are deficient in iron we take supplements. If the BMI indicates our metabolism may need tuning why not just fix it?  We can stop the shaming and stop letting it victimize people and stop enabling someone's knee jerk vulnerability.

    •  What it may take is a breakthrough comparable (4+ / 0-)

      to the one that changed standard treatment for ulcers.

      It used to be thought that ulcers were caused by excess stomach acid (a view that is still heard here and there). Then somebody discovered the link with bacteria....

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 11:19:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do you have a reference/citation for this .... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon
      Early childhood trauma (e.g., neglect, abuse, deaths, divorce, poverty, addictions) actually precedes and causes up to 80% of increases in BMI ...

      The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

      by accumbens on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 01:09:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  BMI is meant to measure POPULATIONS ... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine, zenbassoon, stormicats, kck, NancyK

      ...NOT individuals.  It is being used incorrectly to harass, abuse, and shame individuals.

      I am fat now (yes, I admit it), but I wasn't always.  I was 16 years old.  I weighed 140 pounds.  My height was 5'2", and my measurements were 38-24-40.  I walked 2 miles every day to and from school, and I could ride my bike over 5 miles to the shopping mall without having to stop to rest (and yes, there were hills involved!).  I never drank soda (still don't), candy/cake/ice cream were rare treats in my house, and fast food was also a rare treat.  Given the choice, an apple or carrot sticks were my preference over cookies (again, not usually in the house).  How unhealthy were my habits?

      Want to know how I was treated by my peers?  Like I weighed 5,000 pounds.  Like I was a beachball with feet.  Like I was slow, stupid, and ugly.  Like I was less than human.

      Now, I have to put up with menopause weight gain.  In less than 90 days after stopping menstruating, I gained 25 pounds - WITHOUT CHANGING A THING IN MY LIFESTYLE.  It's not like I was a marathoner and decided to try that couch-potato exercise routine.  Or a super-healthy vegan who suddenly decided to try the Pepsi-and-Twinkies diet.  The only that changed was my fertility status.  And ALL the weight gain went into my gut.  Infuriating!  Especially once I looked through family pictures on my mother's side and realized that I now looked like EVERY WOMAN in her family.  Aagh!

      Telling me to "just eat less and exercise more" isn't helping.  Treating me a huge drain on society doesn't help.  Treating me as someone who isn't deserving of respect or dignity because I'm fat DOESN'T HELP.  All it does is make me HATE YOU ALL and stay fat just to piss you off!

      (sigh)

      Okay - rant over.  But it's all true.  The next time you want to "help" your fat friend - just let it go.  Instead, invite them to go walking with you, and tell them it's because you want their company (and mean it!).  Invite them to dinner and cook something really tasty and healthy (and take into consideration their tastes - maybe they can't eat spicy food or hate cilantro because it tastes like soap to them), because maybe they've never learned how to cook that way.  (Imagine how Honey Boo-Boo is going to cook as an adult, when her favorite dish as a child is "spaghetti with ketchup and butter".)  Most of all, just be their friend - because trust me, we have so very, very few of them.

  •  I have fought and won the weight loss battle, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, True North, NancyK

    and know it is difficult. I put on weight very easily, and it is a constant struggle to maintain an appropriate diet and level of cardio activity. But I do it, and it's work.

    Now I have two obese friends I don't know how to approach on the topic. One is in ICU as a result of a fall. She is older and overweight, and toppled down stairs. She is requesting food that will worsen her condition in ICU that they won't give her. It may cost her her life, because her heart and kidneys have been compromised.

    My other friend recently spent the night on the floor, unable to crawl to the bathroom. I stayed on the phone with her all night, to make certain I didn't have to call an ambulance if the pains in her knees worsened. She has had double surgeries on her knees, and isn't walking very well. If she doesn't lose weight, she too could become critical. But she has asked me not to speak with her about weight, because it upsets her.

    I have no idea how to approach the issue of their health with these women. The first I have known several years, the other for decades. I care about them both, and can't bear to watch them undergo death by diet.

    For years I have been studying diet and nutrition in an attempt to improve my own health and that of my family. I see many pre- and post-menopausal women undergo sometimes significant weight gain. It appears from reading I have done that the body is attempting to sequester the flushes of estrogen these women are producing from time to time with fat and water to level out hormones.

    Then I think another source of weight gain can be allergies. I know when I eat more wheat and gluten-containing foods I tend to gain weight. Also beef can make my shoulder ache and stomach bloat, while lamb doesn't. So possibly getting an allergy test might be helpful.

    The new term for those carrying weight seems to be "heavy". One friend refers to someone she notices who is larger in this way.

    I recently really upset her when I told her the government is now considering excess weight as a medical condition that is eligible for insurance coverage. I thought that maybe by working with a dietician and allergist she could pinpoint a diet that could help her lose weight. When young, she was slim, so weight has not always been an issue with her.

    So those with issues around weight may not be very open to such suggestions. I am now carrying around some extra pounds that I don't need, but that is nothing compared to the 65 pounds I packed on going through menopause. Losing the weight and keeping it off took years, and it would just love to creep back on my frame.

    But I don't have to deal with a lifelong weight issue as many do. Now that I have two friends to whom weight is a life-threatening issue, I wish I had a better understanding of how to approach them, if at all. As it is, I feel like I'm being an enabler by just being a friend and ignoring the condition that is threatening their lives.

    Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. ~ Edward Bernays

    by 4Freedom on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 12:00:36 PM PDT

    •  That's the hardest thing of all. I know from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      4Freedom

      experience.  I've been your friends.  Especially when it comes to the reactions when people bring up weight.  It took a realization that I could barely move to get me to actually make the conscious decision.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 02:44:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't try to 'fix' them (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, NancyK

      I have had so many people over the years tell me what I need to do to lose weight, to make me prettier, to fix me up so I will meet someone's idea of what I should look like.  They come from a good-hearted place and want to help.  But they don't.
      Your friends know they are overweight, and they know they need to lose weight.  You talking to them about gluten free or pro-biotic or low-fat or Adkin's diet or whatever is the current fad will not make them start.  They need to come there on their own.  Chances are good they have done everything from the banana-and-bran diet to the only-eat-before-3pm diet to the bacon-is-ok-but-no-bread diet to the fast-on-Mondays diet to half a dozen others over the years.  They've had well-meaning friends and family tell them what new thing they need to do.  They will come to it or they won't, but you condescendingly talking about what you do won't help.  Them talking to each other would actually be much better.

      Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Gabby Giffords.

      by Leftleaner on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 04:08:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My suggestion (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, 4Freedom

      4Freedom, I think it is wonderful that you are so engaged with them and so determined to help. I admire you to no end for your kindness in staying on the phone with someone all night. This response is about why I think you shouldn't talk to them about weight.

      You already know how they feel about it when you raise your concerns in terms of weight.

      My suggestion is to stop talking about their weight altogether. There are several problems with that approach. One is that it does trigger the fat-shaming issue, and, as big women, they are already well-aware of how much they are despised in the wider community for being fat. Another is that there are current issues, but there is no way that a big person is going to suddenly lose a whole bunch of pounds. That is a long-term proposition, and, if you aren't feeling well right now, then you are likely to feel rather hopeless that that's going to happen, ever. Hence, if the only solution is to become thin, then you feel utter despair.

      My advice for you, going forward: stop talking about losing weight and stop talking about being fat.

      What you do know a lot about, that you should think about discussing with them, if they're interested, is what you've learned about diet and nutrition, for example.

      I know people with bad knees and bad hips who are skinny, and people who are big who have fine knees and fine hips.

      A lot of older people have more problems with balance. A local seniors' group provided information on using the balance board with Wii to improve balance, because it was an issue for so many people, regardless of size. They didn't package the advice as related to size, though they did talk about age, being a seniors' group.

      Some fat people have had to work hard to pin their doctors down, because the doctors were quick to attribute any condition to weight, and then throw up their hands, and tell the patient to come back when they're thin. So the fat patients learned to ask the equivalent of: "Have you ever treated a thin patient who had a bad knee? What did you recommend to that person?"

      My suggestion is: if they want to talk about health with you, then discuss the same things you'd discuss with a thin friend.

      I went vegan a few years ago, and got much more interested in nutrition--so I can talk peoples' ears off about plant-based diets. That applies no matter what their weight is. Plenty of thin people have health problems with hearts, cancer, diabetes, and other serious diseases, so I don't assume that a person's overall health can be discerned just by looking at them to see what size they are.

      A documentary that I recommend to people--even though it gets a little carried away on the obesity thing--is Forks Over Knives. (That's in the whole plant-based diet category.)

      While any discussion you initiate that focuses on size may trigger feelings of shame, despair and hopelessness--not that they're likely to tell anyone that--what might well trigger a feeling of possibility and optimism is if your knowledge of nutrition leads them toward better health overall and higher energy in the near term.

      Incidentally, maybe your friend who is in the hospital is yearning for comfort food, for obvious reasons. She still might be open to talking about nutrition.

      Sorry to natter on for so long.

      •  Your post was helpful, not nattering. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zenbassoon

        I have to talk to the friend in ICU's doctor, who just called when I was out. The other friend fell again because she is too proud to use a walker.

        What a quandary! I care about them both, and will have to consider what has been discussed here to see if there is anything I can or cannot do to be of help to them.

        But I can't function in the role of enabler. If I have to wind down my involvements, I'll do that rather than upset them.

        Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. ~ Edward Bernays

        by 4Freedom on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 07:33:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Going forward (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          4Freedom, zenbassoon

          4Freedom, I'm not sure what they are expecting of you that places you in that tough spot of being an enabler. So I can't say much of any usefulness about that.

          Yikes: on the one who won't use a walker although she needs it! Everybody I know who needs a walker has gotten one, and finds it very freeing, especially the ones who get good-quality walkers with a seat and a basket.

          The strengths that you bring--that I've noticed from your comments--is that you care about your friends deeply, you express that caring by going way beyond what most people would do (like staying on the phone with that friend all night), and you have paid attention to your own health (I assume), which is why you know a lot about diet and nutrition.

          If either of your friends is open to some ideas about another way to go in terms of nutrition, then I hope they'll take advantage of what you've learned, and even try it out.

          But there are factors that lead people to stay with the diets they're familiar with. Some foods are addictive: cheese, meat, chocolate and sugar actually produce opiate-like substances in the body, according to Dr. Neal Barnard's book.

          As we've all seen, people are attached to foods for reasons of habit, culture, taste, tradition, family. As someone who follows a plant-based diet, I know that most people I talk to can't begin to comprehend a life without the foods they've eaten since childhood.

          And your friends are adults. As adults, we get to make our own decisions, howsoever hare-brained we might be about something. Sometimes it takes a while to reach a new approach.

          A friend of mine, who grew up in a cattle-ranching family but became a vegan in her twenties, is philosophical about talking about diet with people. Some people are interested, some people not--she talks to the former about being a vegan, but skips it with the latter.

          I wish you all the best. And, again, good for you for really going above and beyond what most friends can do for others.

          •  Thanks for your words. Somehow, they are helpful. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zenbassoon

            My friend in ICU is in a very rough spot. I visited her yesterday, and the social worker began the conversation about guardianship for her, her health is so hinky. She doesn't want family or other friends involved because of past history.

            I'll call my other friend when I feel clearer. The stress of seeing someone I care about yesterday in such critical condition was pretty stressful, and I have to work today.

            Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. ~ Edward Bernays

            by 4Freedom on Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 05:07:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  People in my family tend to be fat in middle age (3+ / 0-)

    and skinny in old age.  Relatively, anyway - sometimes it's hard to tell since about half of us have fairly heavy bones in comparison to the rest - I'm downright delicately built in comparison to my mother and my sister, and I am NOT small.  You have to have known my mother for years to realize that she is rather thin now.

    Every time Mom complains of a symptom, I do a bit of research and tweak my diet.  I plan to have an extremely healthy old age, and if losing weight is one of the results (which I am, slowly) of what I'm doing, that's okay with me.  But I don't do guilt any more, and I'm not actively trying to do anything but get into better condition.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 12:49:37 PM PDT

  •  This should not be a shocker (4+ / 0-)

    People contemplating making major lifestyle changes -- such as those required to lose a lot of weight and keep it off -- need to feel not only that the goal is worth it, but that they themselves are worth the effort.  Make people feel like shit because they are heavy, and the second half of that equation is not ever going to happen.  Yet people who aren't even trying to be obnoxious will still persist in the belief that people can be bludgeoned into change if only society makes them feel bad enough about their current state.  It's bullshit and always has been.

    It's a dynamic that you see in many more fields of concern than just obesity.

  •  It's even worse than we thought. (5+ / 0-)

    I looked into weight prejudice the other day, as I have lost over 100 pounds in the past year and two months, and apparently it's even worse against people like me, because we feed into the myth that "fat people are just lazy and could lose the weight if they want to."

    Glad to see Weight Loss Kos doing something and this post of yours. I'm looking for tips on maintenance at this point, so if anyone has them, I'll take them.

    •  I lost 45 pounds (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      allergywoman, zenbassoon

      but have only been maintaining about two months.  There's something called the National Weight Control Registry that you might want to look into.  It's just a statistical database of the habits of people who have been maintaining long term (not sure exactly how long is required to get in).  Stuff like that it's more common for successful maintainers to weigh daily, to keep up with exercise, and to count calories/track food than otherwise.  I don't know how useful it is individually (like, I don't count calories and never will), but maybe something in it will prove useful.

      From the lofty vantage point of two whole whopping months, I think they key (besides the ones you would have learned while losing in the first place) is keeping your head in the game, staying alert, making adjustments as needed, and never expecting that you'll be able to entirely give up the effort and relax.  I didn't get that overweight because my habits and thought processes were good for me.  They're much better now, but it's something I need to be proactive about or risk losing what I have gained.

      My biggest challenge thus far in maintenance has been figuring out how to add significant calories to what I had eating for the better part of six months, without doing so by adding back in foods that do me no favors, or habits that could get me in trouble.  It's challenging. :)

      I hang out at sparkpeople.com a lot (username renataruns) if you've ever heard of it, where there are many people who are much more knowledgeable (though generally not more verbose, sigh) than I am.

  •  Antidepressants (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, nchristine, True North

    I inherited the tendency toward depression.  I am on two antidepressants.  There was a time a few years ago when I was unemployed with no health insurance, so I had no medication.  I lost 30 lbs. in six months without trying.

    I'd rather be overweight than depressed.  However, since my family has had a lot of cancer and heart disease, I am working to lose weight.

    I often think of a NYT article that featured a woman who ONLY loses weight when she writes down every thing she eats and does some kind of exercise (i.e. walking) every day.  (I don't recall the exercise duration.)

    Another NYT article stated that our bodies respond to even small reductions in food as though it was in starvation.  The brain even fools the dieter that she/he must have calorie laden food in order to survive.

    (I'm sorry that I don't have references.  I don't have a subscription to the New York Times.)

    I believe I can lose some weight.  I believe it's going to be a major effort for the rest of my life.

    •  See a metabolic specialist. They can design (0+ / 0-)

      a diet plan for you that will help take the weight off.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 02:46:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think the most recent data (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, Papuska

      suggests that the metabolic effect of reducing calories (especially for people who do not go overboard), though real, is not quite as significant as feared, and does -- eventually -- go away for most people.  At the website where I hang out for this sort of stuff, there's a ton of people who anecdotally have told stories of messing up their metabolism with too-restrictive diets to the point where 1200 calories a day was getting them nowhere, and who after gradually increasing calories from there were afterwards able to lose again at 1500 or higher.

      As someone whose fear of that effect was a significant damper on my willingness to consider trying to lose weight for years and years, it's something I've been glad to see.

    •  what helped me in midlife (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, Papuska

      was a friend who kept asking me to go fro a walk then challenged me to walk a half marathon. np pressure.every time we got to gether we went for a walk and gabbed.. the first walk she kicked my ass going up a hill, but she waited and was patient and i loved her for it..this also made me realize that i had gotten  out of shape .i had been fit most of my life but under a good deal of stress in my late 30s and 40s had gained weight.  i had always been in shape, and now had to face the fact that inner assertion   was no longer reality

      what also helped was i got something equivalent to meniers' syndrome.. which was very debilitating

      though it may not have been connected i realized i had gained too much weight. i immediately cut my salt intake and took carb cutting seriously (getting my carbs from veggies al a south beach style)
      i stuck to it because i thought otherwise i would not be able to  walk or drive a car.. about a year later it was gone.

      i learned about insulin resistance. i learned about cortisol. it took me 1 1/2 years before i did that half marathon, but i did it , and a couple more..

      the other thing that helped was for a short ime i had a little extra money and i took pilates and bellydancing and salsa..

      if i was a rich person i would give  overweight people the time and money to introduce some of these things into their week. we get overstressed and overworked and inactive.

      activity takes TIME, it take hours and more often than not, with our stressed out lives we can't seem to find the time... we must find the time...

      as you get healthier you feel better.
      a positive friend   is the best thing in the world.

      i lost 55 pounds and have kept  40 of it off but i realize it is a lifelong process from here on out. the thing to remember is there is a POSITIVE reward even though changing habits is tough.

    •  Go whole plant-based diet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, Papuska

      Papuska, the easy way to do this is to just go to a plant-based diet, as whole-food as possible to get the nutrients.

      You don't have to write down everything. You won't be starving yourself, not even a little. You won't have to worry about your brain fooling you.

      You can eat as much as you want if you're eating fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds. When you are eating foods that are nutrient-dense and that have a lot of fiber, you are not going to overeat--and you are not going to go hungry.

      Quite often, people eat too much simply because they are eating foods low in nutrients or in fiber, so the body is sending forth the signals that more nutrients are desperately needed. The person feels the need to eat.

      With a WPBD, your cholesterol will be coming down, your arteries will be getting squeaky clean, your energy will go up, your skin will be getting more beautiful, and so on.

      Your risk of heart disease and cancer will plummet.

      If you have Netflix, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, which runs about 45 minutes and sums up just about everything about the scientific and clinical studies on plant-based diets. Really, if you are worried about heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc., you owe it to yourself to watch Forks Over Knives. (Your local library will probably have it if you don't have Netflix.) Maybe you won't agree with it--but watch it and see for yourself.

    •  Thank you for the suggestions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon

      Very encouraging

  •  this is all so true. shaming does not work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, True North, NancyK

    i've been concerned about the merciless  fat jokes i read on some lefty blogs regarding Chris Christie for example, really cruel ones . when they target him for being overweight , instead of for his political policies, they are targetting everone who they see as  fat.every overweight person there is feels those daggers and has heard them aimed at them. some of the worst ones on one news blog were coming from someone who said he had been fat but wasn't anymore and that's why he hated fat people so much..he then proceeded to start insulting ME..'i can tell by the way you write you are fat and a nothing more than  an apologist and pathetic victim', etc, etc
    it seems as if this is the last  acceptable form of verbal abuse and it is rampant among people who otherwise seem so progressive and enlightened.

    i remember moving to a new place when i was 13 or so and being called '2 ton tessie', and the like. this was at a time when i was doing gymnastics and very healthy..but after that I started feeling  fat. years later i looked at photos from that time and saw a beautiful healthy looking young girl turning into a woman. the thing was, if you weren't tiny  you were called two ton tessie or a fattie... i was a big strong girl. now i see some young women built like me realizing they can play rugby, basketball, soccer, volleyball, even football. they can lift weights,  row, go into rodeo..lots of things, if their communities will provide some resources for those activities.
    what i did learn was that when that shaming started, (some from inside my family, some from outside), it happened at a time when i was very insecure with my changing body. the result was i  retreated inward and yes , began to gain weight. thankfully i had been fit and active and knew what it felt like and was able to  regain my fitness through hiking  and the outdoors a few years later.

    If you are a friend to someone who is overweight, keep being their friend. don't cut them out of activities. they are MORE than their weight, they are a real person. .you would be surprised how many times people arrogantly let that o

    my own take is, if you see a 170 pound woman, you  might think that is a 130 pound woman who just 'let herself go', when in fact she might just be  the hardest working 250  pound woman you ever saw...so don't make assumptions !!!  and also know that she loves to sail and body surf, so don't tolerate talk about how people  who  some folks think are too big shouldn't  be seen on the beach.

     i hope we start to understand how to give kids a healthy start on life , but it doesn't just have to do with  the food we eat, it has to do with the way we treat each other.

  •  The just-do-what-I-did argument (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, stormicats

    I get very frustrated with people who are absolutely certain that if someone else were to adopt what they did, when they wanted to lose a few pounds, then it would work perfectly. People often try to wrap this up in scientific-sounding language.

    But the reality is that the human body is complex, and what works for some might be neutral for others, deadly for still others. Consider whole wheat, which can be made into a wholesome, nutritious, lovely, food for some, and a deadly (or at least sickening) food for others.

    Consider hypothyroidism. If you don't have it, your prospects for losing the ten pounds you want to lose are a lot better than if you are hypothyroid and don't even know it.

    We know that hypothyroidism is radically under-diagnosed, and that it isn't only weight gain that is a problem as a result: fatigue, anxiety, depression, miscarriages, infertility, and much more are the result of hypothyroidism.

    Take another step back. Most American municipalities add fluoride to the municipal water supply, believing that it is justified to dose the entire population with this medication.

    But not everybody responds to fluoride the same way. Until the 1950s, European doctors treated hyperthyroidism with fluoride, to slow down thyroid function. It worked for that purpose. The amount prescribed is comparable to what many cities medicate their population with by adding fluoride. A person who has average thyroid function to begin with might move into hypothyroidism due to added fluoride ingestion.

    So some people, who are perhaps more sensitive to fluoride than others to begin with, may become more hypothyroid because their water supply is fluoridated. And not know it.

    Fluoride also increases blood glucose or impairs glucose tolerance in some individuals, which can make diabetes worse. Diabetics drink more water than non-diabetics, exposing them to even more fluoride. (Cities calculate the dosage to be administered to the public on the basis of what an average person drinks in a day, so anyone who drinks more--diabetics, athletes, etc.--gets a higher dose than intended by city administrators.)

    In short, this simple advice--just do what I did, it worked for me--is misplaced. What works beautifully for one person may not work well for another--or, what is worse, may be harmful to that person.

  •  I am so sorry I didn't see this yesterday (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbassoon, Noisy Democrat

    I am the walking talking example of this. WhenI see pictures of myself from elementary school & later, I'm not bigger than the other kids. Yet my father was constantly (constantly) telling me how fat I was. As a teenager, he'd yell at me (top of his lungs - he was a foot taller than me & over 200 lbs himself) if my salad was too big. Actually, the loudest yelling was during my anorexic phase. When I weighed 105, ate under 1000 calories a day - way under - and worked out like a mad thing. Eventually, in college, I started eating like a person. Then I started eating way too much.

    No one reading this diary will be surprised that as an adult, I weigh 240. I'm working on weight loss. But it is really hard, and it didn't need to be this way.

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