Thursday, August 23, 2007

If only people would just die of the shame like they're supposed to

While I write a bit about bodies, fat and 'the obesity epidemic' I don't write that much about the health aspects of this. Mostly because I largely find them irrelevant. Other people can do very good jobs of proving that the causative relationship between having a high BMI and negative health outcomes remain unproven at best. I think that in many ways this gives too much ground. Even if, someone down the track, they managed to prove that there is a causative relationship between being fat and dying earlier, then my problems with the way people talk about 'the obesity epidemic' wouldn't change. Partly this is empirical - we have a couple of generations of women (particularly white middle-class women) who have been (and are being) told that their value as a human being was dependent on not taking up space, that hasn't made all middle-class white women skinny. But it's also part of my wider analysis: I don't believe that health issues are an individual problem (let alone an individual moral problem).

But sometimes I read something that makes me go 'How can anyone believe the shit that gets promulgated?"

In this case I was listening to National Radio (I can't find the interview on-line but it was a man I don't like, which probably makes it Brian Crump or Jim Mora) and they were talking about the death rate among Pakeha and Maori.* In this discussion the interview mentioned part of this was because the death rate from cardio-vascular disease has decreased hugely (over 50% for some ethnicities). This was partly because cadio-vascular disease is decreasing, and partly because people with cardio-vascular disease are living longer.

So where's this 'obesity epidemic' and how is it supposed to be killing people if death from cardio-vascular disease has halved?

* Apparently the gap has gotten smaller, which is great until you hear that the Maori death rate between the ages of 1-74 is still two to three times that of Euopean/Other. Also just because it can't be repeated enough health disparities were widening in the 80s and 90s:

It seems likely widening social gaps during the 80s and 90s, including income and unemployment differences between ethnic groups, were at least partly responsible for the widening health inequalities, Prof Blakely said.


  1. Anonymous3:01 pm

    So where's this 'obesity epidemic' and how is it supposed to be killing people if death from cardio-vascular disease has halved?

    The use of the word 'epidemic' in this context is dodgy indeed.

    However, I understand that there are well established causal links between obesity and increased mortality by other processes eg. certain cancers and diabetes. Perhaps these rates have gone up, or are expected to.

  2. Anonymous3:40 pm

    faifxmmm im thinking of Bacon, fried eggs, hash browns followed by toast with lashings of butter & marmalade for breakfast and those small sausages.

  3. There you are. Found it in 5 seconds on google:

    Now where is your research that states fat people are healthy.
    Just because you don't want to hurt the fatties feelings doesn't change the reality that they are unhealthy

  4. Anonymous5:08 pm

    Have Just made fitness freak no. 2 a coffee, oops sorry forgot to use decaf, nutrasweet & trim milk. I dont think hes noticed too busy talking about vitamin thingies

  5. Anonymous5:51 pm

    No fatties like yourself are going to die from a number of obesity related health conditions. I can understand you position though as denial is a power mechanism for not making any changes in your life. Your attitude is like a smoker who denys any link between lung cancer and smoking. Still it's your life.

  6. Anonymous12:36 pm

    What is your definition of a "fattie"? Im 6" and weigh about 100kg, I dont have a body like a stick insect, I dont have & never had a "six pack of abs" but I dont consider myself fat.

    Unfortunately the fitness freaks (2 guys @ my work)consider that anyone who has any excess fat or curves on their bodies as being fat. I agree that some people who are excessively over weight may have health issues, they may also have health issues for other reasons and weight is likely to be a symptom rather than the cause (Dr friend of mine who is doing research into this stuff).

    I have (and Maia as well?) an issue with being made to feel guilty for NOT BEING SKINNY and for eating normal food.

  7. I agree with Anon #3, excessive obesity is related to health issues, however some curves and a non-sixer are not. You could easily pick out my family (uncles, cousins, g-parents, etc) out of a crowd, based solely on the shape of their body, so I know for a fact that it is genetically related (we all live very different lives in very different parts of the world). To compare - my bf's family are all stick-figures without even trying - his sister is actually trying to gain weight (can you imagine?....). My bf eats lots of fried, fatty, fast foods while I eat pretty healthy foods compared to him and his family, and neither of us really exercise particularly, just some walking/hiking, so I can't help but argue against the belief that "fat" people are fat by choice (like in the movies, where the fat kid is always eating something and the others aren't). I really think it has a lot to do with genetics (I am not sure what studies have been done on this yet)....BUT - if you do not realize this, and make some changes in your life (add an exercise routine, watch the fat grams a bit), then it is your "fault" that you continue to gain weight as you get older, and later have health problems.

    In the past few years, I have accepted the fact that "skinny" people are not necessarily skinny by choice any more than "fat" people are fat by choice. Yes it is unfair, it is unfair that I have to exercise 5 hours a week and watch what I eat in order to weigh a "normal" weight, while my bf's family can eat anything they d*mn well please and sit on their a** all day and not gain a pound...yes, it's unfair....

  8. Anonymous8:19 pm

    yep in a world of starvation, war and poverty you think that it's unfair to have to execise on a regular basis.

  9. Anonymous10:57 pm

    A relative of mine has been obese since she had children in her twenties. Now in her early sixties, she recently developed endometrial cancer, which is associated with obesity (more fat = more estrogen). She had to have a hysterectomy and radiation. But despite all that, she hasn’t changed her diet or increased her exercise. She still piles the butter on white bread, scoffs chocolate biscuits and eats very few vegetables or fruit. She’s highly likely to die prematurely as her family watch helplessly.

    Here’s an example of the way some people avoid accepting responsibility for their own health. It’s not about obesity, it’s about smoking.

    A colleague complained to me “my son has given me a sore throat”. I said gently, “Well, you could put it another way: I’ve caught a sore throat from my son.”

    Then I remembered that she smokes, so I followed up with, “wouldn’t it help your sore throat if you stopped smoking”. She said, “Oh, I’m going to, I’m reading this great book about stopping smoking and I’ve got about half way through. Mind you, the last couple of chapters haven’t been as good as the first, so I don’t know if it will work..."

    I said nothing will work until you decide for yourself to give up, it has to be your own decision (I'm an ex-smoker). Then she said, "You know, I started smoking when I had this neighbour who was a real bully. She MADE me smoke because she didn’t want to smoke on her own.”

    So, her son was to blame for the sore throat. The book is going to be blamed if she doesn’t stop when she finishes it. Her neighbour made her smoke.

    She doesn’t take responsibility. And nor does my relative.