Pin a Rose to My Fat Ass

I’m listening to an interesting interview of Dr. Paul Ernsberger, Associate Professor of Case Western Reserve University, and Dr. Eileen Seeholzer, Director of Obesity and Weight Management Program for Metrohealth (a nonprofit, county operated healthcare system located in Cleveland, Ohio) on a show called The Sound of Ideas.  The show is titled “Eat Less, Exercise More? Maybe not.”

My first problem is that Dr. Ernsberger, who has a PhD, was not referred to as “doctor”; only Dr. Seeholzer (an internist) was referred to by that title.  It may or may not be a small thing, but I think it showed a lack of appreciation for Dr. Ernsberger’s qualifications.

Dr. Ernsberger pointed out that a focus on health and healthy behavior rather than weight is more effective in improving the health of fat folks; and that many people can achieve significant health benefits by a change in behavior without any weight loss.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Dr. Seeholzer agreed with almost everything that Dr. Ernsberger had to say, but her ultimate focus remains on weight.  Even so, her focus on weight loss is based on improving health numbers such as blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol) than achieving thinness.

The doctors did butt heads over the use of BMI, with Dr. Seeholzer believing that BMI along with waist circumference can be used as a starting place for predicting health goals.

Then the host opened the show up to callers.

Begin the parade of “I lost” by “doing this” and “all you have to do is” and “ain’t I wonderful”.

Fuck me.

I found the smugness and the reek of moral superiority almost unbearable.  And of course these callers were all congratulated, as the show quickly devolved into diet talk.

Dr. Ernsberger did his best to point out that (a) these people are in the minority; (b) that often the lifestyle described by the callers to maintain their weight loss may border on obsessive-compulsive; (c) that focusing so much on what you eat may lead to an unhealthy relationship with food; (d) that you cannot tell a person’s health or their lifestyle behaviors just by looking at them; and (e) such behavior is probably not sustainable in the long run (5 years)  Dr. Seeholzer also took a shot at explaining why dieting doesn’t work for most people and why weight loss and weight loss maintenance are much more difficult for different people.  But it was clear that Dr. Seeholzer was solidly behind the dieters and while Dr. Ernsberger brought up the issue of the difficulty of long term weight-loss maintenance (especially in regards to a lady who is on Weight Watchers), Dr. Seeholzer completely ignored this issue.

Of course, no one wants to say “Well, pin a rose on you,” to the dieters.  Well, I do (sarcastically of course), but I wasn’t invited to the party.

I did find enlightening Dr. Ernsberger’s comments about how people who have lost weight often experience a post-weight loss glow (due to all of the compliments, and feelings of control and achievement) and that feel-good glow should not be confused with good health.  Numbers such as blood pressure are more important.

One caller was going on how she lost so much weight from taking up swimming and a vegan diet, and you just have to find “something that works for you.”  Dr. Seeholzer chimed in with you need to develop a self-identity as a healthy eater and fit person.  Dr. Ernsberger brought up synchronized swimming group, the Water Lilies, who (he believes) are also mostly vegan, and are all fat.  The point is that regular swimming can be fun and may have health benefits irrespective of weight.

I was hoping that this show would be about focusing on health for fat people rather than focusing on weight loss; but the callers brought the conversation down to “I’ve lost weight and am therefore better than anyone who hasn’t.”

So, some people lost some weight.  Pin a fucking rose on you.

And I’m fat.  Pin a fucking rose on me too!

“Look in the mirror, and don’t be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival.” – Stephen Jay Gould


4 thoughts on “Pin a Rose to My Fat Ass

  1. As a rabid consumer of news, I see that there are two subject that provoke predictable anger from readers/listeners on a regular basis. One is any mention of welfare and the suggestion that the poor and sick need to be taken care of, and the other is articles about obesity. My take is that social tensions are creating a kick-the-cat syndrome.

    But I also notice there are more and more articles about how difficult it is to lose weight and these result in screaming, frothing rage. People NEED to believe that losing weight is easy. Telling people it’s not, is like telling them to forget the dream of becoming rich, because it’s a dream that’s increasingly only open to members of the elite and their children.

    • I like the phrase “kick-the-cat” syndrome (although our 3 cats may object to its use). I think the root of the “need” to believe weight loss is easy is rooted in our society’s belief that weight loss is necessary to achieve the good things in life. Get rid of the latter and the former loses its impetus.

    • Another part of the NEED to believe that weight loss is easy may be that it justifies the belief that fat people are lazy. If weight loss is hard, especially if it’s not equally hard for all people, they have to admit, “There but for the grace of God go I”–but if it’s easy and it’s equally easy, more or less, for all people (calories in calories out!) then they can conclude that fat people remain fat because they’re lazy. And they don’t have to feel guilty about mocking fat people and making assumptions about the way they live their lives based on their weight.

  2. I’m happy Dr. Ernsberger got to put the facts out there, at least! The fact that it devolved into weight loss talk when they opened up to callers isn’t exactly surprising, though one, including me, might wish the radio hosts had been able to think that far ahead, or been prepared to move the conversation in a better direction.

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