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Where's the Mojitos? I have the guac!

Oryoki Bowl

Oryoki Bowl
February 03
Quaker buddhist, kinda quirky, loves cooking and knitting and movies. Dr Who fan, Scandinavian-aquarian and cat lover. Would love to be paid to travel around the world and write about local healing cultures. While eating and drinking and dancing. One day I will have a health cruise in the fjords.


MAY 18, 2012 7:44PM

In Defense of Fat People

Rate: 22 Flag

Every day, in almost every way, overweight and obese people are the scape goat for all of society's ills, evils, failures, and problems.  News reports show us "fat porn", with close up shots of big butts, bulging bellies, thunder thighs, and triple chins.  Hands lifting oversized, greasy everything to hungry mouths, slurping the 64 ouncer soft drink.  Those people.  

Maybe you are one of them, and you are probably kind of tired of all this bullshit.   

I am not going to suggest that being obese is good for your health, but not all obese people are unhealthy in other ways.  There are plenty of slimmer people that also have self inflicted health problems from abusing drugs, alcohol, sugars, stimulants, diet products, pain pills, cigarettes.  There are plenty of athletic people who drive up health care costs from their sports injuries and replacement joints.  I also know that plenty of skinny people are mentally unstable and emotionally abusive to others, preening on their self congratulations.  Their bio chemistry is different from mine.  I don't want to be that way.  

It is true that overweight issues typically stem from a few different things:

1) Not enough activity compared to food intake, but more specifically carbohydrate, sugar and alcohol intake.  If you aren't moving around all day, or sweating it off in exercise, you will gain weight.  Some of us are very efficient at turning those calories into storage fat.  That is genetic, and much harder to overcome.  Not impossible, just how it is.  These same people would most likely be able to do lots of physical labor, and withstand longer periods of famine.  They don't need to keep eating all day to survive, but the ingrained, hardwired, genetic predisposition to "gather nuts for winter storage" is always on.  

2)  Constant stress.  I don't know too many people who aren't stressed out, due to family life, work life, relationships, children, not having relationships and children, not having work, chronic pain, etc.  Now, on top of it, as a fat person, everyone gets to see "your problem" whether you like it or not, and you have become the target of politicians, comedians, the evening News, medical doctors, the fashion industry, pharmacy and insurance specialists.  How does this not add on stress?  Most people eat to relieve stress, especially if exercise has always been physically painful or exhausting.  Always hearing about how "you just need to do...." is a constant reminder from the world that you are not acceptable.  Maybe being overweight is a hardship.  Mostly, it's a hardship on the person being overweight.  

3)  Hormones hormones hormones.  Estrogens make fat.  They also help with reproduction, but they are designed to help store fat- which makes for craving more carbohydrates.  This is true of men as well as women.  Some people make more estrogen than others, naturally, and some make more of the fat building variety, by nature.  This is very hard to control, and requires avoiding almost all extra sugars, alcohols and starches.  It gets worse as you get older.  Environmental and dietary toxicity from estrogens (in dairy products, farmed animals, plastics, pesticides, solvents, household cleaning products) increase estrogen load (but cannot be measured very well) and store in fat tissue.  If your body can't clear it (needs vitamins, minerals, enzymes, liver support), it will store it as fat.  Everything your body can't get rid of gets stored in fat and bones, and it's very hard to eliminate.  We accumulate a lot in our life, our food, water and air supply are contaminated.  Some of us absorb this more than others.  Thyroid hormones are also affected by the stress and high estrogens.  

4)  Unrealistic expectations.  How can we expect to keep our weight down when we have long work hours, lots of driving, labor saving devices, and an unlimited calorie supply?  We barely break a sweat, we barely shiver off the cold, we don't chop our own wood, we don't carry our own water, we hardly ever go without a meal.  Now, we barely have to prepare or chew any of our own food, and there is nothing to block the steady stream of calories into our blood stream.  Our genes haven't changed in 1000s of years, but our environment has done a 180 in the last century. 

Meanwhile, everyone keeps saying that obesity is a drain on our economy (like the smokers used to be, but they have mostly quit, some have gotten fat from eating instead).  Let's consider this:

1) They eat more food, they consume more beverages, they wear out clothes and shoes more often.  That means spending more and keeping more businesses afloat.  

2) Not sure if they require more doctor visits, because some are very health conscious, and some are not.  Their need for pharmaceutical intervention keeps people who sell insurance, drugs, medical equipment and health care busy.  I am pretty sure that they work hard and earn their insurance.  

3)  They do actually join gyms, they do actually try weight loss plans, they do actually consume diet products and healthy choices.  However, some of this stuff doesn't work.  Especially when the food industry doesn't have to be accountable for the kinds of garbage they put in food.  Sugars are highly addictive, like cocaine and nicotine, and they are unregulated.  Diet sodas and products are highly addictive, compulsive eating stimulators.  They turn off self control.  Excessive exercise without a good meal plan contributes to fatigue, overeating, and injuries- which lead to not moving around too much.  Hmmm.  

4) Studies show that "low self control" over diet plans has as much to do with the families, friends and work environments (with all those baked goods) pushing bad food on people as the person's individual will.  If you want to be supportive, be supportive.  Not a nag, not a tease, not a bully.  Just supportive.  

5)  They are real people, one in two to one in three, who are not inherently more flawed than anyone else.  With patience, diligence, and compassion, a person with overweight can be guided to make choices that work for their lives and their bodies.  Shame, humiliation and excessive taxes  are not the  way to go.  

Do we need to stop subsidizing poor health choices?  Maybe, maybe not, but we already do in the way our farming and food industry is paid off by big oil and big pharma and big chem.   We already do when we allow tons of toxic substances into our environment.  We already do when we let industrial pharmacy and agriculture write our health care bills.  We already do when we'd rather not pay for school health plans, physical education and good nutrition for the young- and then blast them and their parents for not knowing any better.  All of us need to be our own best self advocate, but that is not enough.  We need to help each other and stop pointing fingers.  Of course, picking better choices means having them available, affordable, easily acquired and knowing what they are.  You can thank the advertising industry for making sure we don't. 

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It didn't used to be like this. Eating out was rare when I was a kid. My mom cooked from scratch, so did everyone I knew. Portions were smaller too. Look at the little bottles of Coke - that used to be standard size, and usually shared. I could blame ConAgra and Monsanto and the corn industry and weak-willed Confpgress, but really when it comes down to it, it's everything I choose to put in my mouth.
As someone who has struggled with weight issues all his life, I thank you for your well reasoned defense. I love food, but balance that with exercise. I will never make my chart weight, but at 67 I am in robust health and tha is good enough for me. R
Very sharp analysis. As I said to someone yesterday after reading Nicholas Kristof's op-ed about teenage bullying (often aimed at kids who are overweight), I wondered if the negative tone of some anti-obesity essays wasn't just a more polished and subtle form of bullying, with the result being the same - the defamed feeling humiliated. A little more constructive criticism, and a little less destructive, would be helpful.

As you point out, the biggest problem is the crap food the consumers are offered. Every time I see the sizes of the soft drinks offered at fast food places, I wonder why people aren't having heart attacks right on the sidewalk. I agree with you that the tax route is not a good one for progressive thinkers to be advocating (especially since it will fall more heavily on the poor).
It's environmental. People eat what is in the environment and can be acquired at the least cost. If our ancestors had not done that, they would have been an evolutionary dead end. What's in our environment is large quantities of cheap, addictive processed foods with artificially heightened caloric values. How many quarter pounders can you buy for the price of one pound of halibut? Housing is also an issue. People who do not have spacious kitchens with plenty of storage, including fridge and capacious freezer, cannot take advantage of bargain shopping and quantity buying. If they don't have a car, they can't go out of their neighborhood to a supermarket and have to rely on the convenience store and fast food outlet. In my opinion, at least with respect to the poor, it's totally environmental. The only people who escape it are the ones whose genetic programming makes them resist gaining weight.
Indeed, fat people are no more flawed than anyone else.

I've been thinking a lot about the obesity issue for several years now, so much so that I have decided to get an M.A. in Health Studies with an emphasis on promotion and education. After spending the last 9 months literally working my ass off and struggling to rebuke the demon some call white rice, I know how hard it can be for some of us to maintain a "healthy" weight and avoid sugars and starches. When I eat brown only and up my veggie/fruit consumption, my appetite is always under control.

Amen to this, "Sugars are highly addictive, like cocaine and nicotine, and they are unregulated." I've been saying as much for years, but people just don't want to face the hard truth about food--to be healthy, you have to cut out, or seriously cut back on your crap consumption.
Plus, the further you go down the path of obesity, the harder it is to get out. I've always been slim, but it's not because I'm more virtuous than someone who is heavier. We all have our vices, even if some of them don't cause weight gain.
Brava! As a woman with a lifelong weight problem (food is love and love is food was our unspoken mantra when I was a kid), I appreciated your supportive comments and clear analysis.
Thank you for this reasoned, dispassionate work regarding an issue that actually touches on a great many others. I thought of an ex-boyfriend of mine while I read this piece. Trim. Rabid bicyclist (at least 100 miles per week). But abusing both prescription anti-anxiety and sleep aid medications, along with more than an occasional cigarette and hit of marijuana. And lots of orthopaedic surgery work.
My mother cooked for more than 5 people, though that's all we were, and we ate all of it. BUT, we also worked it off. I was a stick when I was a kid, I worked out when I was in the military but that was at the boyfriend's behest and, thanks to him, I have a rotten attitude towards it and am reworking how I see myself. Bum.

Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where honesty ruled and people were just nice to each other? The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

"Twinkies, golden cake with cream filling. And yes, eventually, if you eat too many, they will kill you."
An excellent analysis. I absolutely despise the premise that anyone who's obese is lazy and self-indulgent... what utter bunk! I was dangerously heavy when younger, which nearly killed me. Psychological issues were the core cause, not genes.. I've said it turned out I was fighting to keep weight on without realizing it. Though I've now been slender longer than I was fat, I will never forget the frustration and pain. Thank you for shining a bright light on this issue.
You covered all the bases very well. So many health issues! I think, if the men want to eliminate contraceptive health care, and the skinny people eliminate obesity care, I would like to eliminate all heart attacks, most adult-onset diabetes, and all sports injuries from insurance. Then we'd have a more vibrant discussion of "moral," maybe with some compassion turning up.
As someone who lost 60 pounds I can only say that there are many factors but Fat is not a moral issue.
oh you hit it!
"That means spending more and keeping more businesses afloat. "

also goes for we other pariahs, we partakers of tobacco.
which built our economy and continues to be taxed
to provide, uh, they tell us health care for kiddos.
actually, it goes in the general fund.

sins are necessary for the capitalist system,
as was presaged by the protestants
beginning the damn thing.
This is the most concise, tightly written, cleanly felt examination of this issue I have ever read. Here or anywhere.
I applaud your thoroughgoing kindness and wisdom.
If there has to be a scapegoat, let the major industries fueling our ill health be the actual recipients, as they surely are the cause of the better portion of this problem.
Think of it: Most water (in my area anyway) flows through PVC pipe, not metal pipe anymore. Plastics do not help rebuild liver tissue. Instead, they decrease health and may increase spending overall in future against health problems we have yet to realize are caused by the use of so much plastic.
I shudder to think how this may have affected my many immune difficulties over the past 2 decades.
forgot to rate first!
Excellent piece so well expressed. Thank you for your tact and thoughtfullness.
You are so unequivocally the voice of reason and humanity Oryoki.
I love reading your analysis on similar topics on health and wellness.
Thank you.

I am late in reading this but found it a fascinating view on the subject.
I used to think I overate when I was sad, now I am overeating because I am happy. What's a girl to do?
rated with love