After reading this article and study, I’m thinking maybe classifying obesity as a disease isn’t an absolute negative after all.



A New York Times article, however, disagrees with me and claims that while the classification improves body image (yay), it leads to acceptance of weight – and that’s a bad thing.

Say what?

Excuse me, but I think this is a win-win.  Fatties have an improved body image and stop trying to lose weight (or even better develop a weight-neutral attitude)?  Fuck yeah.

Let me be clear – I do not agree that obesity is a “disease”, it is a natural state of being.  Part of nature’s great and wonderful diversity.  But I’m happy to find a little bit of a silver lining to this cloud.

The article looks at a study that was supposed to measure the psychological effects of the classification of obesity as a disease by having participants read various articles regarding obesity.  One group read an article that said fat is a disease, another read an article about weight loss goals that said fat isn’t good for you, and the third group read an article stating fat is not a disease.  Then they filled out questionnaires relating to attitudes about weight loss and eating.

In the first place, having people read an article is all well and good but these people have not been living in a bubble. The fat participants are going to bring a whole world of experience to questions about being fat and eating, and all of the participants are going to have a lifetime of living in a society that demonizes fat to bring to the party.  Just saying.

To the horror of the researchers, when given a choice of sandwich options, the fatties in the fat-is-a-disease category chose sandwiches that had 7% more calories than fatties in the other two groups.  Non-fatty choices did not have a difference between the groups.  I’m sorry but I don’t understand why 7% more calories is something to get your panties in a bunch over, and while it is interesting that this increase was correlated with the article read; there are just too many individual variances going on here to make any conclusion, much less the conclusion that fatties who are told fat-is-a-disease are going to run amuck at the sandwich shop every chance they get.

This seems to boil down, as usual, to the fact that there is no known way to achieve significant long term weight loss for most people, and since most weight-loss methods lead to fatter fatties, ditching the weight loss goals seems like a pretty good idea, especially since there are studies showing that a weight-neutral approach to health is more likely to be maintainable.

It’s all about the health, not the weight.


Here’s a study that tries to measure the effect of being fat (weight and waist circumference) on living to 85 with reasonable health.


They categorized the women into 5 groups, based on varying levels of chronic disease/illness and mobility disability, and concluded that being a fat old lady reduces your chances of having a certain level of quality of life by age 85.

Well, in the first place.  I thought us old fat folks were supposed to be long dead and gone by age 85!  So since enough of us are making it to that ripe old age to be studied, I say is a win!  Yay us and fuck the “you’re going to die young” doom and gloom sayers.

In the second place, by using type 2 diabetes as something that always reduces quality of life, you are stacking the deck against fat people.  Those with well managed diabetes can have quite a good quality of life.

And finally, mobility loss is going to affect more fatties, but there is a lot of difference between being too weak and sick to walk, and having bad knees (which nobody will fix for you because you’re fat) or a bad back and losing the ability to walk.  Loss of mobility can affect quality of life, but that effect is going to vary a lot.  For some fat people, being able to get around on a scooter is a big improvement – they can get out and about and enjoy life a lot more. 

And what really frosts my cupcakes is the conclusion:

Overall and abdominal obesity were important and potentially modifiable factors associated with dying or developing mobility disability and major chronic disease before 85 years of age in older women.

 And just how do you propose “potentially modifying” weight?  I guess nobody told you that there is no known way to achieve that for most people.  I guess nobody told you about the protective qualities of fact for the elderly. 

 And as if I’m not mad enough, an article on the study


suggests that Michelle Obama take on fat old people, since she’s doing such a swell job with fat kids.  No thank you.  After living a long life as a fat person in a fat-phobic society, I don’t think I’m up for another round of stigmatization and fat-bias courtesy of Mrs. Obama. 


Skepchick, Teen Skepchick, and Fat Positivity

Here’s another great fat-positive post on Skepchick, cross-posted from Teen Skepchick. Since Skepchick is not a fat acceptance blog as such, I’m always pleased when they venture into that realm, and to me they have the right attitude about it, unlike some in the skeptical community. This post captures the moment when the writer looked at a photo “of myself trying to look as defiantly fat and righteously angry and confident as I could, and for the first time in my life I felt legitimate pride in my body.” It’s a big step on the road to self acceptance. Read more here: http://skepchick.org/2014/02/cross-post-modesty-fat-shaming-and-me-in-a-bikini/

Blogroll returns!

One more thing: while poking around with the website design, I realized that I could put back the blogroll without changing themes. So I did it, first making sure that all the blogs I pointed to were still alive (not all are very active, though). So take a look to the right, and click away!

Note about the Fatosphere


Ever since June of last year, traffic here at Fatties United is down, way down. We used to see a big spike after every post, and now, some posts get noticed and some don’t. For example, Part 1 of my two-part Skeptical Inquirer series didn’t cause a ripple, but Part 2 caused a nice little peak in readership.

This change is related to the switch of the Notes from the Fatosphere feed from Google Reader to Feedly. It appears that we got dropped from the feed for some reason. I think it must be accidental, and it looks like other blogs also got dropped. In fact, the feed’s looking quite thin these days. (Another factor is that some readers lost the feed in the switch.) Feedly, which was mentioned at the time of the switchover as being the new host for the feed, is pointing to the wrong URL, it seems. The correct URL is now shown below.

I’m going to see if I can get us back on the feed. In the meantime, I still think it’s a useful way to get the word about fat positivity, so if you’re at all interested, go ahead and sign up again: http://notesfromthefatosphere.blogspot.co.uk http://feeds.feedburner.com/NotesFromTheFatosphereBFB

How can fat be good?

Given the continual media assault on fatness, the average person is forgiven for asking, “How can fat be good?” And yet, study after study has shown that, among people with many chronic diseases, fatter patients do better on average. This is called the “obesity paradox”, although it’s only a paradox if you believe that fatness can’t possibly be good.

But it can be. We’ve talked about it on this blog here, here, here, and here. Even anti-fat guy Kenneth Krause admitted it. But one (admittedly large) study comes out showing that this is not the case for type 2 diabetes and the media act as if that debunks the whole idea of fat as being protective. This is especially annoying since another recent study confirms the “obesity paradox” for diabetes.

The number of studies confirming that there are some health benefits to fatness is large enough such that we should no longer be debating whether the benefits exist at all. We should be running studies trying to figure out why these benefits exist, and how they can be used to help people who aren’t fat, or fat people without any illness.

I could write a lot more about this, but as I said above, we have done already, and this shit is getting old.

Skeptical Inquirer and Fatties, Part 2

[Part 1 is here.]

Kenneth W. Krause has a column in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in which, lately, he has been taking on fat activists. By comparison of this page and this page, he appears to be the same guy who tried to shame fat newscaster Jennifer Livingston into losing weight for the good of society. (I’m not trying to imply that Skeptical Inquirer is hiding Mr. Krause’s other activities, just that identifying people can be tricky because different people can have the same name. Note also that the Skeptical Inquirer articles I am discussing here are not available online.)

That was in 2012. In 2013, he took his anti-fat crusade to the pages of Skeptical Inquirer. Now, before Mr. Krause gets mad at me (assuming he ever reads this) for saying that he is on an anti-fat crusade, let me state that the first of this series, in the May/June issue, is relatively even-handed about the science of fatness. He starts off discussing why the energy balance concept (calories in = calories out) is an oversimplification, and that we need a better approach to fatness. He then discusses other hypotheses for fatness (hormonal imbalance, carbohydrates, lack of will power), and shows that they are all oversimplifications. But he can’t resist a “PS we hate you” at the end, stating the usual alarmist stuff about the “obesity epidemic” and how we must do something. (I agree, if that something starts with acceptance of fat people.)

But in the Sept/Oct issue, Krause tackles head-on the idea that fat could be a good thing. He starts with the most recent Flegal study, which confirmed that people in the “overweight” BMI category (between “normal” and “obese”) have the lowest risk of death (by a small margin), and that even the biggest fatties have only a modestly elevated risk of death (29% higher). Krause latches on to Flegal’s list of potential explanations, specifically the idea that the lower risk is because “heavier patients” (Flegal’s words) get better health care because they go to the doctor earlier. That actually sounds like an argument for Health at Every Size: “overweight” people can improve their health without losing weight. (And while this may be true for those in the “overweight” category, we larger fatties have had a different experience with the medical profession.) Even better, Krause himself admits that, among those with many chronic illnesses, fatties have better outcomes than thinner people (the “obesity paradox“). But he says that these people benefit from “a little, though never a lot, of extra weight.” (Then why is it called the “obesity paradox” and not the “overweight paradox”?) He concludes this part of the column with the following:

We should of course remain open to all potential subtleties regarding adiposity and health. But given the depth and breadth of the evidence associating extreme overweight with all manner of affliction, the primary public health objective must be to prevent both obesity and pre-obesity.

First of all: “pre-obesity”? Gimme a break. Second, more research is fine, but given that today we don’t know how to prevent or get rid of fatness in a way that works over the long term for most people, and since you (Mr. Krause) believe that better health care has given “overweight” folks longer lives, why not work toward better health care for the “obese” patients as well?

The next part of his Sept/Oct column looks at various diets (Paleo, Mediterranean, and vegetarian), showing that they all have flaws and none of them is for everyone. On that we can agree. But, you guessed it, he finishes by returning to the idea that we need to keep trying to lose weight, phrasing it as a way to give fat children “an opportunity for accomplishment and not . . . an excuse for regression to mediocrity.” Excuse me, pal: Fatness is not mediocrity; there are wonderful fat people who are exceptional musicians, writers, even (that’s right) dancers and athletes. Equating fatness with mediocrity is an opinion that is not based on science.

Finally we come to the latest (Jan/Feb 2014) issue of Skeptical Inquirer. This time he limits himself to a response to a letter, and here he takes off the gloves. He starts off with this gem:

Doctors tell people to lose weight because, by definition, that’s what obese and overweight people need to do.

Did we not just talk about this? Do you (Krause) not remember the paper that showed that the “overweight” had the lowest risk of death? Isn’t it clear that these definitions are unhelpful?

He then states, “And I don’t know of any doctor, dietician, or personal trainer who has ever advised a patient or client to go on a “yo-yo” diet.” Dude, look at the scientific evidence: weight-loss diets are yo-yo diets. He goes on to state that weight loss is “not impossible”. So you recommend an intervention that works 5% of the time because it is “not impossible” that it works?

He wraps it up by suggesting that we “frustrated and angry” fatties should have sympathy for health care professionals who are only trying to help. OK. But if they really want to help, they should stop using interventions that don’t work, and try the HAES approach, which has science behind it.