Opting Out Of The Illusion Of Immortality

Deb Burgard has a terrific post on the latest “being fat makes you die, damnit” study

Masters’ central argument seems to be that even though the repeated findings for decades of rigorous research (reviewed by Flegal, 2013) has found that BMI and mortality are only weakly correlated, and that higher BMI may actually correlate with longevity in old age, this set of findings must be wrong, because 1) fat elderly people are more likely to be unable to participate in the surveys due to being “institutionalized” more than thin elderly people (no citation), and 2) there are apparently going to be major differences in longevity between people who were fat in their 60′s in 1995 and people who will be fat in their 60′s in 2030 because of the latter group’s “longer exposure to the obesogenic environment.” I guess that is an interesting thought experiment, but if you look at current trends it would seem that fat people are more likely to be healthier in the future if we continue to improve access to healthcare and continue the progress in managing hypertension and diabetes.

Catastrophizing isn’t exactly new in writing about fat, but it does get attention, if only because it gives the fear-of-fat industry something new to write about. Deb responds to this in an inspiring way:

My body […] is not a cautionary tale, a ticking timebomb, or a battleground for corporate adversaries trying to make money on marketing to fat people (weight cycling industry! workplace wellness programs! Big Pharma!) or trying to save money by hoping fat people die  (health insurers! HMOs! Cost-of-obesity policy wonks!).

My death will not be a point for one side or the other.  I am opting out of the illusion of immortality[…]. I am going to live as well and as long as I can, and then I have to get off the bus. It is not different for any of us, and the best use of my time is to make this world a place that gives every one of us the maximum chance at happiness and well-being.

I’ve buried both of my parents. At the risk of sounding trite, it brought home the very real fact that people don’t live forever. Turning that into marketing just feels wrong.

Harriet Brown on Weight Bullying by Parents

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

[Discussion of bullying and weight punishments; feel free to skip.]

Harriet Brown has a piece in the New York Times Well blog on “Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight“:

Parents and other adults who are “only trying to help” may do harm rather than good, as a recent study from the journal Pediatrics makes clear.

It is a good discussion and I’m glad to see it.  At the same time, it can be upsetting to see things you’ve lived with discussed dispassionately. Dr Rebecca Puhl, from the fat-phobic Rudd Center, appears, as does Ellyn Satter.

“There still remains the widespread perception that a little stigma can be a good thing, that it might motivate weight loss,” said Dr. Puhl, a clinical psychologist. (Medical doctors, too, fall prey to this misconception.) But research done at the Rudd Center and elsewhere has shown that even well-intentioned commentary from parents and other adults can trigger disordered eating, use of laxatives and other dangerous weight-control practices, and depression.

Hells yes, y’all, parents can bully their fat children.  Or maybe you don’t want to call it “bullying.”  Maybe you want to call it teasing, belittling, or harassing.  Oh, here’s one: providing incentive.  Maybe buying your kids clothes that “will fit when you lose weight” instead of now, or pointing out that the fat kid gets different (less) food than the rest of the family, is just something that “has to be done” too.  No, it’s not.  It is abusive. And you should not be surprised if the kids you reject for being fat reject you in turn.

Kudos to Harriet for broaching a topic that many parents like to pretend doesn’t exist.  Also for common sense suggestions, including

¶ Don’t blame your child for his weight. […]

¶ Don’t engage in “fat talk,” complaining about weight and appearance, whether it’s your own, your child’s or a celebrity’s. [….]

¶ Don’t promise your child that if only he lost weight, he wouldn’t be bullied or teased. […]

¶ Don’t treat your child as if he has — or is — a problem that needs remedying. “This will make him feel flawed and inferior,” says Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and therapist in Madison, Wis., and author of “Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming.” Instead, she suggests, focus on a child’s other good qualities, and encourage traits like common sense, character and problem-solving skills.

I would strongly recommend NOT reading the comments in the Times.