Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From the "You Have Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me" department

This article appeared in the LA times on Sunday. It says that some companies are now starting to give their employees "incentives" to lose weight, in the form of charging people extra for their insurance if they are over a certain BMI cutoff. One smug asshole explains it this way: "If you have employees who don't care about their health," she said, "what else are you supposed to do?" Gee, I don't know, maybe keep your nose out of your employees' personal lives?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Our new look

The astute observer will notice that the Fatosphere's color scheme has changed. I did this for two reasons: One is that there is another blog about fat that was using the old template (now I can't remember what it was, unfortunately) and I didn't want to be the same as anyone else. Another reason is that I thought the old one was unnecessarily dark and might have dampened the mood of my dear readers. Of course there is plenty to be pissed off about, but there are also things to be happy about, like this delicious cappuccino I made today (I have been working on the latte art a lot lately... and I will continue to torture you with photos of it until it's perfected). You know, it's the little things...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Holy crap...

Unfortunately I'm getting to this a bit late since we had company this week, but in case you haven't already seen it, you can check out this article that claims you will get fat if your friends get fat. It is based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that attempted to track weight gain within social networks, and it found that among men, those whose friends or relatives became "obese" (i.e. their BMI changed from below 30 to 30 or above) were more likely to become "obese" over a 4-year period. The effect was apparently not found among women (though most of the articles I've seen about the study don't mention this).

There are so many potential problems with the study (like the fact that the "social networks" in question included blood relatives, when it has already been pretty well documented that fat runs in families), and yet the major media outlets are trumpeting the results as if they prove that having fat friends makes you fat. The headlines are mostly variations on "Fat is Contagious!". Here are a links to a few of the stories:

Washington Post (this one is great because it likens being obese to a "fad" -- yeah, I hear it's the next big thing)
New York Times
Time magazine

Most of the articles I've seen have mentioned the fact that one might interpret (the inaccurate media reports of) the study to suggest that you should dump all your fat friends, and then they say something along the lines of, "No, don't really do that, that would be mean." (It would also not make sense, because the "findings" of this study, such as they were, were that men are more likely to become fat if their friends and family *become* fat, not if they already *are* fat.) But here is one article (already posted by Aditi a couple of days ago in a comment about my "Be Afraid" post) where this asshole William Saletan actually comes right out and says you should dump your fat friends: "To resist a fattening norm, you need willpower. To reverse it, you need to promote responsibility, which implies blame. You almost certainly need stigma. And realistically, to add normal or underweight friends to your circle, you have to relegate others who are overweight. That may be bad for your fat ex-friends, who will lose your friendship as well as your thinness. But it's fine for you, since you'll have just as many friends as before." Where to begin? First of all, Asshole. Secondly, in order to make "normal" friends, you have to make room by dumping your fat friends? Like there is some maximum number of friends you can have? Thirdly, you need stigma? As if there isn't one already? As if it's perfectly acceptable in our society to be fat and we all have to be vigilant against that? Another thing that is really galling about Saletan's article is that he starts out by saying how terrible it is that the spin on all the articles about this study have been so biased in favor of fat people. Huh?! This sounds to me like a tactic of the right wing: claim that the media is biased towards the other guy when the reverse is actually true, and that way any outrageous bullshit you want to spew out will be perceived as being reasonable. Yeah, we live in this world where it's so cool to be fat and everyone wants to be fatter, and the media is telling us it's great to be fat, but William Saletan is here to cut through all that PC nonsense and tell you how it really is.

Just to get that nasty taste out of your mouth, here are a couple of great responses to all this from the blog world:

Peggy Elam

Kate Harding

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Go Meat!

The Admiral found this on Grist yesterday -- apparently it is unaltered from the original, which appeared in some magazine (don't know which one). Here is the original post. I went to the "Go Meat!" web page, and there it's more clear that they are playing on the phrase "Go Team!" with their slogan (which I didn't get from the magazine ad). OK, so it makes a little more sense, but We Are Still Not Amused.

I am not the kind of person who goes around trying to convince everyone else that they should be vegetarian, but I can't help feeling a little defensive when there's an explicit "Go Meat!" campaign out there. I just don't think meat is something that needs to be promoted.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Be afraid, be very afraid...

This article appeared on MSNBC today, claiming that 75% of Americans will be in the "overweight" category (based on body mass index) by the year 2015 if the current trend continues.

OK, the fact that Americans are getting fatter probably does signal something bad (though of course BMI is a lousy way of tracking how fat people are). The average American's diet is no doubt pretty bad, and most people don't exercise very much, and these things must be contributing to making people fatter on average. The fact that diet and exercise are getting worse probably has something to do with the fact that people are living farther and farther out in the suburbs, commuting longer and spending more time in their cars in general, and working longer hours for the Man. Not only does this force people to sit on their butts all day, but it's draining and takes up time that might be spent hitting the gym or cooking a nice healthy meal at home. I'd like to see more media attention given to these serious problems rather than to surface manifestations of them, like people getting fatter.

But that's a different post. What I wanted to point out about this MSNBC article is the fear-mongering. It reminds me a lot of the way the Bush administration linked 9/11 with Saddam Hussein (41% of Americans still believe that Hussein was responsible, according to this article). If you just kind of keep saying the words "obese" and "overweight" in the same sentence with "heart disease," "diabetes," "cancer," and "death," then of course people are going to think that fat causes all those other bad things, especially if your society predisposes you to think that being fat is bad anyway, for aesthetic reasons. In the case of fat, I don't think every doctor or researcher who makes this link is necessarily trying to mislead people -- a lot of them may actually believe that fat causes those other things. Or maybe it's just that it is easier for them to convince people to work on getting healthier by boiling it down to a bogeyman like fat, rather than trying to promote a more complicated message like, "Having a poor diet and being sedentary, which might cause you to be fat, will also increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, so you should try to eat healthy and exercise to improve your health, and it is possible that you will also lose some weight if you do that."

But whether or not we are being maliciously deceived, it's working. People just assume the link without any evidence. Consider this sentence from the article: "...those with BMIs of 30 or above are obese and at serious risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers." Maybe there is a statistical correlation between a BMI over 30 and higher risk for those diseases, but notice how the sentence implies that a 30+ BMI *causes* increased risk, without actually coming out and saying it, or backing it up with data. Compare that with another sentence that does something similar: "Before 11 September 2001, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained" (George Bush, State of the Union Address, January 2003).

And then, of course, there are the vague scary threats. Aside from the title of the article itself, there are quotes from "experts" trying to freak you out. For example, the lead researcher on the Johns Hopkins study described in the article asserts that "Obesity is a public health crisis." Never mind that the study doesn't say anything about people's health, just their fatness. So the researcher who said that is expressing a personal opinion not based on the research, but it sure does sound scary, doesn't it? Another member of the research team says that "Obesity... will soon become the leading preventable cause of death in the United States." Does the study actually show that fat is killing people, or is this just some spooky speculation? The article actually ends with this quote, so the whole thing is pretty clearly meant to leave you feeling unsettled. Kind of like quotes like this are supposed to make you feel unsettled: "If we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they won't leave us alone -- they will follow us to the United States of America" (your president again, April 16, 2007). Let's just hope those terrorists don't also happen to be fat, or we're really in trouble!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Two license plate frames I've spotted lately

"MY CHILDREN ARE CUTER THEN YOURS" (I'm not the grammar police, but I think if you are going to make a bold claim like that, you ought to be more careful about the details.)

"STAY HEALTHY -- EAT YOUR HONEY" (That one had a little picture of a bee on it.)


This interesting article appeared on Salon.com today (you may have to watch an ad in order to read the article, if you aren't a subscriber). It summarizes another article about how this chemical from plastic called Bisphenol A, which is apparently in our water supply, interferes with fetal development in a way that may be making people fat. Evidently the onset of the use of Bisphenol A in plastic manufacturing corresponds with the beginning of the so-called "obesity epidemic" in the US. Of course the timing could just be coincidental, but studies have shown that prenatal exposure to the chemical does cause rats to be fat (well, apparently the independent studies show this, though the studies funded by the chemical industry don't).

I was also really intrigued by people's comments on the Salon article. Some are pretty thoughtful, but there are a couple of really dumb ones, including someone who says basically, "I eat food out of plastic containers and I'm not fat, so this article is wrong." It's interesting to me because you might expect Salon readers to be more intelligent and/or open-minded than the average bear, and yet...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Doing the Shuffle

I got my iPod (Shuffle) very recently, but it has already revolutionized my running and trips to the gym. In a later post I plan to give you my "Stuff To Run To", which I'm still working on. It's going to be timed so that you can actually run to the tempo of the music, because I read in Runner's World that regardless of whether you are a world-class marathoner or pathetically slow, you should aim for 180 footstrikes per minute when running. I tried it out and realized that (a) that is really fucking fast, and (b) it is hard to find decent songs at that tempo. So I went on a quest to find some, and I found this cool website where you can pick a tempo range and a genre and it will give you a list of songs. The pickins in the 180 range seem kind of slim, but I'm investigating.

Those of you who did time in the Ohio State marching band will instantly be able to come up with at least one song at 180 bpm (for those not in the know, Buckeye Battle Cry, the song the band plays when doing its famous pregame ramp entrance, is played at 180, in theory... but getting the tempo exactly right is difficult to say the least, so the band gets to spend a lot of time agonizing and obsessing over 180). But I don't know about you -- I'm not a big fan of running to marching band music. I'm not saying that everything on my playlist is as cool as what the kids are listening to these days (whatever that might be), I'm just saying it's a little less pathetic than marching band music. I'm still working on the running playlist, but in the mean time I give you my "Stuff To Go To The Gym To", which I do listen to while running, even though the songs are too slow for (even) me to run to the beat. Click "Full Text" below to look at the playlist.

In other music news, I just learned today that the Daily Show theme song (which apparently is called "Dog on Fire" -- charming) was performed by They Might Be Giants. I had no idea! Did you all know this already? I feel like that dork who writes "The Outside Scoop" on The Onion. I always thought the song sounded kind of like TMBG in their ska period, but figured I would have known if it was them. Then today I was reading the review of TMBG's new album on Amazon, and it mentioned in passing that they performed that song. I thought it was so cool that two things I liked independently, the Daily Show and TMBG, had this historical connection that I didn't know about. It is almost as if I found out that John Hodgman used to be Bruce Campbell's literary agent or something. (OK, I already knew that one, but don't you think that's cool too?)

Anyway, on to the playlist...

Stuff To Go To The Gym To

1. Washin + Wonderin' -- Stroke 9 (From the Malcolm in the Middle soundtrack, and it turns out to be a good tempo to run to, though not quite 180. Sometimes I just run to this one on repeat even though it's not the world's greatest song.)
2. Jaan Pehechaan Ho -- Mohammed Rafi (From Ghost World soundtrack)
3. Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More -- Steely Dan
4. Lucretia MacEvil -- Blood Sweat and Tears
5. Lithium -- Nirvana
6. Soundtrack to Mary -- Soul Coughing
7. Monkey In Your Soul -- Steely Dan
8. New Age Girl -- Deadeye Dick (From Dumb and Dumber soundtrack)
9. Back in 1999 -- John Oszajca (From Mystery Men soundtrack)
10. No Way -- Freakpower (From Mystery Men soundtrack too)
11. All Star -- Smashmouth
12. Raspberry Swirl -- Tori Amos
13. Swing -- Ani Difranco
14. Charlie Freak -- Steely Dan
15. Gravel -- Ani Difranco
16. Unexplained -- Meat Puppets (From X-Files "Songs in the Key of X" soundtrack)
17. Rev -- Perry Farrell
18. End of the World -- REM
19. Firefly -- Enigma
20. Not a Virgin -- Poe
21. Snail Shell -- They Might Be Giants
22. The Sweet Escape -- Gwen Stefani
23. Money -- Pink Floyd
24. Mambo No. 5 -- Lou Bega (Did you know why it's called that? Lou Bega has explained that it is named for all the ladies on all five continents. Uhh...)

So there you go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Et tu, Women's Health?

Sheesh. Now Women's Health Magazine has a BMI Calculator on the front page of their website. I don't know how long it's been there -- if it was there all along, I must have been blocking it out. Women's Health is generally a cool magazine -- usually they say pretty sensible stuff about health, nutrition, exercise, etc. and the writing is kind of snarky and full of pop culture references -- so it is especially disappointing that they are promoting the BMI crap. I sent them this email:

Do you guys seriously have a BMI Calculator on the front page of womenshealthmag.com? That has got to be the least sophisticated measure of someone's health that I have ever heard of. I expect more from Women's Health. It is especially dangerous for you guys to promote BMI, because a lot of your readers work out and lift weights, which means they will have extra muscle that will give them a higher BMI. If a woman like that went on your website and calculated her BMI and it told her she was "obese" when really she wasn't fat at all, you guys would be responsible for the damage to her health if she decided that she needed to go on a diet and lose weight as a result of the info on your site. I hope you will remove the BMI Calculator immediately to avoid harming your readers by giving them wrong information.

We'll see if they respond (or, better yet, just take down the BMI Calculator).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Welcome to the Fatosphere!

Hi everyone,

I'd apologize for the long hiatus, but you didn't even know I was gone since you didn't know this blog existed back in 2005 when I created it. Plus I am trying to practice being less apologetic in general. So here I am, unapologetically welcoming you to the Fatosphere, where you can read rants, points of info, and hopefully some funny stuff about all things Fat. More good stuff to come, but in the mean time you can read all the old posts. I think they're still pretty relevant, since -- surprise! -- the world doesn't appear to have become a lot more fat-friendly in the last two years.