This blog has caught the notice of at least one anti-fat person, which I guess is good because it means we’re having an effect of some sort. Some anti-fat comments are actually thought-provoking, and while I’m not going to approve anti-fat comments, I’m going to address some of the concerns raised.
A couple of weeks ago, Terri posted about old fatties, as a response to how doctors try to scare people into losing weight “for their own good”. Fat people have had to deal with the most horrifying discrimination from doctors, from death threats (“if you don’t lose weight you’ll be dead in five years”) to more subtle forms of abuse to actually withholding treatment for fat people. If you have any doubt about this, check out the First Do No Harm blog.
In Terri’s post and its comments, there are a lot of anecdotal statements about old fatties who (1) exist, and (2) look younger than their age. Here’s another: my Dad is 84, fat (he’s been fat since the mid-1960s), and looks easily 10 years younger. So what’s the point of these anecdotes, since their not scientific evidence? Well, when you hear people say, “Ever notice that you never see any fat old people?”, the mere fact that I know one old fat person (actually, I know several) disproves the statement. So anecdotes are quite valuable in proving that bad things (doctors abusing fat patients) and good things (old fatties) exist.
As to whether fat people live longer on average, Flegal’s 2005 study shows that moderately fat people live the longest. The same paper shows that people who are much fatter that average die younger than the smaller fatties, but then so do “normal” and thin people. Since many studies show that diets don’t work (here’s a small sample), doctors need to let go of the idea that they can turn their fat patients into thin ones. Doctors need to treat the patients as they are, not as they are wished to be. That means giving fat patients the same quality of care as thin ones, and not withholding care.
By the way, the guy who chastised Terri for presenting anecdotes is guilty of the same thing, because he presented the anecdotal evidence of a world record book to say that, OK, I guess there are old fatties, but not really old fatties, you know, the record holders. So now all I have to do is find a 110-year-old fatty and the commenter will admit defeat, I guess.
Back to science, I’d also like to point out that fat is protective for heart failure patients as well as those with other diseases. So fat people may be more likely to get certain diseases, but if they get them they’re less likely to die from them.
But this talk of who lives the longest is beside the point. Fatties do have health problems, just like thin people, and when we go to the doctor we have the same right to health care as everyone else, and doctors have no right to deny care or give poorer care to fatties. Telling a fat paitent “Go away and come back when you’re thin” is unacceptable.