Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fat women everywhere ... FREAK OUT!

Something my friend posted today on Facebook: Obese girls face tough career climb

Coming from an eating disordered background, I have to admit that this kind of thing hits a raw nerve for me. Weight loss efforts for PRESCHOOLERS?

Are you serious?

Can you imagine how messed up those kids are going to be if they start developing food issues at that age? I mean, I remember having serious body image concerns at about age 5, but I'm in the minority (one would hope). Why would we want to spark this kind of neurosis in a large (no pun intended) population of youngsters?

I understand that obesity is a problem in our nation today. I really do get it. Obesity, diabetes, yadda, yadda, the dethfatz are going to get you!

But I will say (as I always do) that obesity is not simply a function of what you eat or how much you exercise. Women with PCOS (ahem, moi) experience obesity as a symptom of their illness ... and this condition affects as many as 10% of women. Funny that you never hear about it, right? That's because too many of us are supporting bogus and dangerous diet ventures in an effort to eliminate our socially manufactured shortcomings.

Anyway, I would believe that young women face huge obstacles if they are larger. After all, our culture tells us that our size is a reflection of our self-control, our virtue, our ability, our dedication. How many studies have been done that prove that fat people (not just women) get paid less, are hired less frequently, and generally get the short end of the stick?

Arguing against these researchers' suppositions ... I wonder whether anyone noticed that lower-income women from disparaged populations are more likely to be obese, which is probably why they have a harder time graduating from college and becoming gainfully employed. ETA: The article says that the researchers said "It didn't seem as though economic situation was a factor," but I'm not sure how that's quantified. Another case of correlation being confused with causation. I mean, I know it's a tough concept, but it seems like a lot of researchers just can't stop sensationalizing phenomena that kind of coincidentally happen together. It's hard for me to believe that we can blame all of our problems on being fat.

Here's the crux of the whole thing for me: This kind of article perpetuates the "if only I was skinny" myth that so many eating disordered folks hear playing in their head ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

"If only I was skinny, I would get a better job."
"If only I was skinny, I would have more friends, and maybe even a partner."
"If only I was skinny, I could feel good about wearing a size ____ "
"If only I was skinny, everything would be better."

This is a dialogue that none of us deserves to hear. It's a bunch of baloney. Being skinny doesn't make your life easier if all you think about is remaining thin. In the case of folks like me, the push to be super thin can endanger your life.

It won't be until we, especially as public health practitioners, start to respect all types of bodies (including those that are naturally thin, fat, whatever) that we will truly begin to find a solution to the obesity problem. Treat these people with dignity, for heaven's sake.

One final thing: "He himself has studied the connection between body image satisfaction, and obesity and anorexia. People who have poor self esteem have difficulty controlling their eating habits, he said."

Yes, because obesity is analogous to an eating disorder? (WRONG ... not everyone who binge eats is fat, and not everyone who is fat binge eats). And the last time I checked, eating disorders weren't because of a lack of control over your eating habits, they're about a need to control something ... so you exert more control over your eating (i.e., not eating anything!). I'm really not impressed with this particular piece.

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