Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Can't... resist... making pun...! Too... easy...!

"Keep your chins up!"

(Gasp! I confess, I caved! Go ahead, pun-ish me!)

[NB: I originally intended this to be a light-hearted fisk of a rather funny topic. But the more I read of this article, the more agitated I became. Let me make it clear I mean no offense to people suffering with a weight problem. I do, however, detest the feel-goody endorsement of burying yourself in fat just so you feel more "accepted."]

Fat activists protest diet industry (CNN - AP -2 Aug 2004)

Unashamed of their size, fed up with fat jokes, and angry at the national obsession with dieting, overweight activists are mounting a feisty protest movement against what it calls the medical establishment's campaign against obesity.

"We're living in the middle of a witch hunt and fat people are the witches," said Marilyn Wann of San Francisco, a militant member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Wow. Time to get a new hobby, ma'am.

"It's gotten markedly worse in the last few years because of the propaganda that fatness, a natural human characteristic, is somehow a form of disease."

Ah, yes, of course, a condition that contributes to atherosclerosis, coronary arrest, pulmonary cancer and joint problems (to name only a few obesity-related maladies) is not in any sense a disease. Of course.

Let's not be so politically correct and ego-friendly that we collapse fatness, indeed a useful human tendency (in the right conditions) into obesity. They are two very different things. I fully side with NAAFA that overweight people are unfairly and unceasingly harassed by the beauty industry to conform to insanely thin models.

BUT -- but I couldn't agree less that obesity should be given a pat on the head beacuse fat people feel a widdle unhappy. Obesity will kill you and it needs to be addressed, humanely but systematically, as a full-fledged medical problem. I feel much the same about smokers: I detest the condescending persecution they get from "healthy" citizens, but I nevertheless stand against the habit.

The association, known as NAAFA, holds its annual convention starting Wednesday in Newark, New Jersey, bringing together activists for social events and workshops on self-acceptance, political advocacy and the "fat liberation" movement.

Oy. What fat-uous bluster.

Far be it from us to worry about poverty or hunger liberation. Nooo, let's first defend our right to consume as much as we like, and be as fat and happy (literally) as we like, and *then* we'll worry about the walking skeletons around the world (and I don't mean the modeling world). The same folks blubbering about the reigning obsession with thinness as an insult to fatness are making a disgusting mockery of starving people's plight. Fatness is a biological means of survival, not a private comfort for antsy suburbanites.

Imagine how much good these people could do if they diverted their sizable energies away from defending their waistlines to defending aborted babies. Fat, it turns out, is no less an idol than thinness. God have mercy, have mercy on us.

"I hope we can be a viable force of sanity in the midst of hysteria,"

Nope, sorry, you already missed your chance. Leave NAAFA first and you'll have a better chance.

said NAAFA spokeswoman Mary Ray Worley of Madison, Wisconsin. "I've found allies in all kinds of unexpected places, but overall there's a lot of animosity. Some people act like obesity is the next worst thing after terrorism."

Maybe some idiots do act that way. I don't. But I do know embracing obesity is one of the next worst things after suicide.

Jeannie Moloo, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman who counsels overweight clients at her nutrition practice in Sacramento, California, empathizes with the activists' fight against bias, but says they should be wary of oversimplifying obesity-related health issues.

"Some people can be overweight all their lives and not end up with diabetes or heart disease or hypertension," Moloo said. "But the majority are probably going to develop one of these life-altering conditions." ...

Amen, amen!

"Obesity is not a disease," insisted Allen Steadham, director of the Austin, Texas-based International Size Acceptance Association. "All this does is open the door for the diet and bariatric surgery industries to make a potentially tremendous profit."

Flip a coin. Would you rather have these surgeons make a buck or McDonald's make a billion? What Steadham fails to realize is that chronically fat people are *already* victims of a massive commercial scam (more commonly known as the fast food industry). Why wallow in that industry for the sake of sel-festeem when it's merely lining its pockets with overweight people's fat?

Most fat-acceptance activists endorse the concept of eating healthy food and exercising regularly, but they oppose any fixation on losing weight and contend that more than 95 percent of diets fail. They also decry the rapid growth of stomach-shrinking surgery; the number of such procedures has quadrupled to 100,000 annually since 1998.

Wann depicts bariatric surgery as "stomach amputation" that imposes anorexia on patients and exposes them to long-term risks. Kelly Bliss, a self-described "full-figured fitness instructor" from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, predicts that future generations will disapprovingly look back on stomach surgery as "comparable to lobotomies."

A procedure I sense Bliss has already had.

Bliss, who coaches clients by phone and in fitness classes, subscribes to a philosophy called "health at every size" -- preaching that health, fitness and self-esteem can be achieved independent of weight.

Now this is starting to make sense!

NAAFA and others have tried to combat what they see as rampant discrimination against fat people, but progress has been sporadic. Southwest Airlines, for example, resisted protests targeting its policy of requiring large passengers to purchase a second ticket if they can't fit in a single seat.

I'm very bad at math, but, if my calculations and economic assumptions are correct, not sitting in one seat by definition means sitting in more than one seat, which, in turn would entail paying for more than one seat.

A few cities, including San Francisco, explicitly outlaw weight discrimination. Michigan is the only state to do so, but its Civil Rights Department said only five of 1,696 job discrimination complaints filed in 2003 involved weight. ...

Many fat-acceptance activists were heartened by this year's publication of "The Obesity Myth" by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, who contends that diet promoters, drug companies and weight-loss surgeons have whipped up an irrational panic over weight.

Campos shares many of the activists' views but says their effectiveness has been limited.

"The movement has found itself marginalized by drawing its membership and leadership from the far extreme of obesity," he said. "It will be more successful if it can attract the two-thirds of Americans who are being told by the government that they weigh too much -- the I-want-to-lose-20-pounds crowd who are starting to feel a certain amount of resentment from the constant haranguing they're getting."

Very well said, and I agree. But, again, I *refuse* to give obesity a pass just because hobby fatness is an aesthetic underdog struggling for its dignity.

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