Diets are a con, but fat people are still undesirable.

•July 23, 2009 • 3 Comments

This article by Sally Van Oak admits that the diet books of the last 50 years are mostly a sham, and that the diet industry doesn’t want anyone to lose weight, because then they would be out of business. Unfortunately her article seems to think that human biology, dieting and ideas of beauty only go back as far as WWII, something that doesn’t really take into account corseting, and pictures of rather voluptuous Edwardian beauties that were in vogue right before WWI hit (and brought the stick thing flapper era with it.)

I’m so tired of articles like this, pointing out the issues with the weight loss industry, but simultaneously peddling the values and misconceptions that power it. ‘Fat’ is still blamed on crisps, fries, candy, ‘hidden fat’ and all sorts of modern day diet boogies that are normally blamed for rising obesity levels. I can get behind the fact that sedentary lifestyles are probably causing some of us to be bigger than we might be under rationing, but we’re also taller and less likely to suffer from rickets and other diseases that are the result of diet deficiencies.

Fashion houses are ‘upsizing’ to cope with the changes. Buy a size 10 dress now, and it is the equivalent of a size 14 in your grandmother’s day.

Sally Van Oak should also take note that the average person is taller, and likely to have larger feet than they did 50 or even a 100 years ago. Our diets have changed dramatically in nearly every century, as trade and technological improvements have made new choices available to us, and changing tastes have dictated new delicacies. She cites a curvy celebrity as an example that tells us it is ‘okay to let ourselves go’. I don’t condone violence, but phrases like that make me reach for the stress ball. A curvy celebrity is not saying anything, other than that she is trying to be comfortable with herself and who she is, in an extremely high stress and highly scrutinised environment. They have their own fat experience, but it has nothing to do with mine.

If poverty and restriction of freedom is the only way to keep us ‘healthy’, as the writer of the article seems to think it is, then I would rather have prosperity and freedom of choice and joy in my life any day. I think it’s great that Ms. Van Oak is exposing the fraudulent nature of the diet industry, but she should have dug a lot deeper to give her article more weight and less hypocrisy.

MSc in Obesity Sciences Unveiled & Basildon pays £s for lbs

•July 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Robert Gorden University in Aberdeen unveiled it’s plan for an MSc in Obesity Sciences last week, while I was away cavorting in the Pembrokeshire surf. Unfortunately it seems that the course, which will start out with 20 places, will start from a negative view point of fat. The Masters course will be exploring the health links with Type II diabetes, cancers, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Not so good, although the bbc article is very short, and I am glad that there is a step towards giving the many issues surrounding obesity and fatness some proper, dedicated attention. The professor, a Dr Ian Broom is quoted in a promising fashion. While BBC Scotland is typically obesity=tehbadness, Dr Broom talks in a much more concilitory fashion.

“We need to develop new ways of dealing with this and the overall education in terms of why we get obese is not clear to the general public.”You may think we eat too much but it’s not just as simple as that.”

If nothing else, this course may help to start dispelling the calorie in-calorie out mantra that is bleeted at fat people every time they so much as sneeze in the direction of a health care professional. The course is run by CORE, the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology, read more about the Centre and it’s approaches. I don’t have the background in the FA movement to critique this properly, beyond the obvious that they buy in to the ‘scary statistics’ that are blamed on fat people. I would hope that such a centre would start off from a neutral position, but it seems to not be the case.

In other news, Basildon District Council will launch it’s Pound-for-pounds scheme in september. They’re attempting to financially reward people who lose weight, with vouchers for healthy food from supermarket Asda. The scheme is part of Get Out There Basildon! which is a project created to promote healthy activities. The information page for Pound-for-Pound is pretty slim at the moment, including the usual BMI calculator. The BBC article says that a sum of £1000 has been put aside to support the scheme, with 100 overweight volunteers to take place. Which means they aren’t expecting anymore than 10lbs of weight loss per person. Never mind that the vouchers for healthy eating would probably be more effective when volunteers start the scheme than when they finish it. Asda is a UK chain owned by US giant Walmart.

Foamy Speaks Truth

•June 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am a looong time fan of Foamy the Squirrel. And then plumcake links to this gem: FAT IDOLS . Not something with which I will agree to every word, but funny, true, and awesome. While Foamy the Squirrel does use ‘fat’ as a descriptive “insult”, his message in other cartoons (such as Jiggly Butt) tends towards the ‘fat? So What’ end of the scale, and pokes fun at the obsession with weight, diet and beauty. You can see more Foamy the Squirrel clips here.

Lazy Stores

•June 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Evans have confounded me. This is not unusual. My natural style inclinations tend towards 2000-2005, baggy skater jeans, and goth/punk cross over. I’m now in a casual-business environment, and don’t really wish to dress like the 15 year olds in my local town, so I have to moderate my love of black eyeliner and scruffy clothes. Due to my size, budget, and preference for trying things on without postage hassle, I am limited to Evans and New Look for the most part.

Which is why it really annoys me that in Evans rather small selection of dresses this season, they are touting a dress that they’ve been selling in various colours for at LEAST a year. I give you exhibit A: the beaded kimono dress in red. This muumuu like piece of clothing has previously been offered in a sort of bluish purple. I’m sure it was also available in a sort of tangerine colour, but my google-fu fails me. Obviously the dress sells well, or they wouldn’t release it again. I even love the new colour.

But when the range of clothes over all is so limited, using up a precious ‘dress quota’ with OLD designs is not something I’m happy about. This isn’t a work or casual dress basic. It’s not even a classic LBD, which Evans should do regularly simply because fats like their timeless classics. No. It’s a ‘hide my fat and look vaguely fashionable’ piece of smart clothing, and they’ve been selling it to us long after the style has been and gone in straight sizes.

I get that Evans has to cater to the 50 something fattie who just wants something modest and colourful AND the 18 year old who wants the latest styles. AND everyone in between, like myself. I get it, I really do. But that’s no excuse for laziness.

I struggle with ‘diet’.

•June 22, 2009 • 6 Comments

Diet. A really loaded word in the fat-o-sphere. This rambe was brought on partially by some thoughts on diet over at the fabulous Angry Rainbows, and There is a range of thought on ‘diet’ and ‘dieting’ in the community. For many, fat acceptance comes with the creed of saying that diet and dieting is always a bad thing. This is understandable, as ‘going on a diet’ has so many horrible connotations both for physical and mental well being. Better writers than I have mused upon the main bad connotations of the word ‘diet’ in the sense of ‘to diet’.

I struggle with this. Not with ‘dieting’ so much. I’m over that. Counting calories doesn’t work for me and I am trying to learn to be happy with who I am, not the thin fantasy I used to dream that I was. I will admit to every now and then logging what I eat for a week, to see if I’m getting enough fibre or enough protein or whatever. I am prone to do this when I’m feeling a bit down.

I have a snag, when it comes to ‘diet’ though. If I don’t think about what I put in my mouth, I have mood swings and fatigue issues liek whoa. I don’t drink lemonade (as in Sprite/7UP) much, and on saturday I had some as it was all we had available at a picnic. Combined with apple pie and a cookie, once we finished looking at the hippos and having a second drive around the safari park, I practically passed out in the car on the way home – something that is really not normal for me. So I need, to a certain extent, to pay attention to what I eat.  Diet is not just a plan of how and what to it, it also describes what we actually eat. My diet is what I happen to put into my mouth, plain and simple. So this weekend, my diet included cookies, and pie, and soda, and I was reminded that I should avoid having too much of those because I don’t enjoy blood sugar crashes. Does that make me a bad fattie? Or just a common sense fattie?

Intuitive eating sound awesome and perfect – it sounds like a great thing to learn to be natural and learn to understand the body and it’s signals. However practically? I am under no moral imperative, even to Fat Acceptance, to manage my general health and well-being in the manner pro-scribed by Fat Acceptance. Common Sense eating is still a ‘diet’, a way of imbibing and partaking of nutrition, based on your own interpretation of your bodies signal. Diet does not just mean ‘a reduced calorie diet’ or a ‘low GI diet’ or even a ‘healthy diet’. It simply means what you eat, in my opinion. Yes, ‘dieting’ with a view to losing weight is pointless. I’ve been through weight watchers and low calorie diets more times than I care to mention.  Right now I am investigating the GI of certain foods to figure out a way to make myself less cranky and less prone to tiredness. Is this a diet? Yet I’ve always held a distinction between specific planned ‘diets’ and ‘diet’ in general.

I’m pretty confused. I’m using some guides to glycymic index to give me an idea of where to start, and then keeping an eye on my body and moods after I’ve had certain foods. An actual low GI diet was suggested to me by my General Practioner. Is this a sugar coated diet? Am I brain washed and a bad fatty? I don’t know any more. I’m a pretty forgetful person, and I can definitely see someone as a scatter brained as me treading the thin line between paying attention to their body, and crossing over into obsessive food logging and nutrient counting. Common sense will be different for everyone, after all.

EDIT: I absolutely love this post by Shannon.

‘Allo ‘Allo : The Sexy Fat Man

•June 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

One of the all time great comedy shows is ‘Allo ‘Allo. It ran for a mammoth 9 series, and made fun of national stereotypes in the process. The ridiculous conciet of the ‘accent’ subsituting for the language made for some superbly silly situations. I bring this up because I went to see the play last night, and while the actor currently playing René Artois is pretty slender, the original Rene was a fat man.

Now ‘Allo ‘Allo is very much a farce. It makes fun of the toffee-nosed english, the german gestapo’s supposed sexual proclivities, the sex-obsession of the french, and just about anything else you can imagine. It is very nudge-nudge wink-wink. Throughout the show, Rene is depicted as being irresistably sexy to both men and women – the number of them is part of the humour. The actor, Gorden Kaye, actually wrote a book about his experiences as a young gay fat actor, and his time in the role. I am now seriously contemplating ordering a copy.

I know, due to the comedy of the presentation, that ‘Allo ‘Allo cannot be necessarily viewed as ‘fat positive’. The women that throw themselves at Rene are not fat by any stretch of the imagination, and the show often makes it’s comedy out of the physical shortcomings of the women, as well as their foibles. Indeed, the women in the show are either portrayed as old and out of touch, with Edith and her mother taking on the status of harridan or harpy. The younger girls in the Cafe are also depicted as sex workers,  and Helga again gets her way by taking her clothes off. Michelle, the Resistance Leader, is one of the few female characters to come off strong throughout her appearances.

However all of the cast is loveable and endearing. Edith may be a harridan, but she is also someone who can stand up for herself, and is shown as someone with a big heart.

I may be reading too much into this sitcom, but I find Rene to be an interesting character. He is a nice change from the ‘loveable but stupid fat guy’, the Homer Simpson Clones that occur so often in modern sitcoms. Of course, he is not a well rounded dramatic character, but compared to the other characters in his ‘universe’ he is not considered the ‘stupid, unnattractive guy’, he is the intelligent, sexy one.

Political Choices for Obese Brits

•June 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Oh Andy Burnham. I am already seeing the results of your pledges. Under 16s and over 60s are now able to swim for free at my local pool, but to compensate the pool is now charging 10p more (a 3% increase in charges for everyone else, basically.) That is wonderful for non-earning kids, and pensioners, but for someone like myself who is barely treading water after my utilities, travel, food, rent, taxes and loan repayments, it is not so wonderful. I hope you can extend your charity to making access to swimming cheaper for all of us.

I’m also applauding the removal of targets and numbers, but I feel it is just going to be replaced with more buzzwords and jargon. Too little and too late for the Labour Party.

“I feel we have been too timid on the public health agenda,” he said. “In the past 60 years the NHS has picked up the pieces. Obesity, alcohol and drinking cost the NHS £10bn a year.”

Not that didn’t expect this, but it sounds like us folk in the UK will be looking forward to a Government that will get more and more nosey into our personal choices as the years go by. It is almost enough to make me vote Tory, I must admit, except that tories, being the traditional part of the UK Middle Classes, can be just as judgemental. The Shadow Health Spokesperson, Andrew Lansley, shows a complete misunderstanding of the details of what it takes to be overweight and Obese. On the face of it the Tory campaign seems almost offensive to me (it’s entitled ‘No Excuses’.)

But digging deeper into this article from August of last year, and I find myself more sympathetic to the approach, although it seems on the whole to be fairly hypocritical. The start of his campaign wants people to take responsibility for their ‘obesity’, rather than blaming it on environmental or genetic concerns.

“Tell people that biology and the environment cause obesity and they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse,” he said.

“As it is, people who see more fat people around them may themselves be more likely to gain weight. Young people who think many of their friends binge-drink are likely to do so themselves. Girls who think their peers engage in early sex are more likely to do so themselves.

Wait. What? The old ‘omfg fat is contagious’ argument, perhaps? I’m sure the fatosphere has covered the UK health politics before, and I’ve DEFINITELY seen our US bloggers declare outrage over schemes like this one:

He floated the idea of incentives for small businesses to improve the health of employees. “We will take action to ensure people have the opportunities, information and incentives towards healthy living,” Lansley said.

That sounds a bit like nannying and shaming in the work place, doesn’t it? Lansley is both propagating the idea that fat people make other people fat, and wants to introduce the pressures of health and exercise interference into a small business environment. Such a potential for workplace bullying and shaming I cannot think of. However the dude does manage to redeem himself by returning to age old Conservative Party rhetoric.

“Tackling the environment should not be a licence to lecture people, because they have no excuse not to exercise, or eat their fruit and vegetables. Nannying – at least among adults – is likely to be counterproductive. Providing information is empowering, lecturing people is not. So, no excuses, no nannying.” […]

“We must not constantly talk about tackling obesity and warning people about the negative consequences of obesity. Instead we must be positive – positive about the fun and benefits to be had from healthy living, trying to get rid of people’s excuses for being obese by tackling the issue in a positive way.”

I feel that the shame and the ignorance will simply be perpetuated. It sounds like this logic will be used as a way to punish fat people instead of lecture them. If there are ‘no excuses’, then it sounds like obese people who have received these ‘positive examples’ and are still fat will be fair game later on down the line.

I won’t bother covering UKIPs approach, although they are a much more respresentative party in the UK since their wins in the recent EU elections, but I will cover the Liberal Democrats, the UK’s third party. Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem Shadow Health Secretary offers very little in difference, in terms of ideology, to the Labour and Tory parties. Fat is still teh Big Bad and teh Big Cost to the NHS. Horrifying statistics are wheeled out about how we cost the NHS £16bn, and die 11 years earlier than ‘healthy people’ on average. Except, wait, the burden on health care is growing because people live longer in general, not because they die.

Norman’s ideology revolves removing the power from whitehall, and giving to local government. The words used revolve around ‘financial freedom’ and incentives. Such as tax breaks for being healthy.

“We’ll give communities the power to raise a proportion of revenues locally. Then our health boards can innovate to enable and encourage local people to improve their health,” Lamb said.

“Incentives could be offered to encourage employers to provide fitness facilities or gym membership to overweight people who can’t afford the normal fees.

Not that I wouldn’t mind cheaper swimming or use of the gym facilities, but those overweight people won’t be getting any richer if they lose the weight. If the weight did come off, and they could no longer afford the gym, all that weight will be going straight back on, and worse than before. And with yo-yo dieting and so on, they will end up with more health complications. Generally the Liberal Democrat policies on Healthcare seem somewhat half assed, and lacking in the precision of the Labour and Conservative Parties, who both have recent experience of Government to draw on in their policy making. Liberal Democrats, as much as I vote for them every time, have some way to go to truly distinguish their policy making on health.