Binge Eating Disorder

This post isn’t really about fatness, but I was thinking about binge eating disorder as a diagnosis. You can take a look at the diagnostic criteria here, but it seems to get into a thorny realm because one criterion is a sense of lack of control. To me, that sounds like saying “addictive behavior” while avoiding that phrase. It leads to some questions:

  • Is binge eating itself a problem, or just a symptom of a deeper problem?
  • Does this diagnosis really help people?
  • Is there an issue with the diagnosis being incorrectly applied to fat people?
  • The diagnosis also mentions distress, disgust, etc. If one binges without these feelings, does one have the disorder?

I don’t have a firm viewpoint, but I’d like to hear yours.

September NAAFA Newsletter

I forgot to post the link to this month’s NAAFA newsletter last week; sorry about that. But here it is, and I’ve pre-clicked for you so that the link below takes you straight to the fat news. Enjoy!

Fat news through July 15, 2016

Here’s the latest in our (roughly) weekly series, bringing you the latest news and research that affects us fatties.

July 8, 2016: A study finds that increased BMI is not associated with higher morbidity or mortality for hospitalized patients, whereas being underweight is an independent predictor for hospital complications.

July 10, 2016: A market research firm claims that Americans are shifting their focus from weight loss and dieting to health, which is hurting the diet industry. One can only hope.

July 12, 2016: Several past studies have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and increased appetite. Now, researchers in Australia show that these sweeteners trigger a neuronal fasting response, explaining the increased motivation to eat.

July 13, 2016: A meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies on four continents shows increased mortality among overweight and obese people. Although people with chronic disease, smokers, and those who died in the first five years of the study were filtered out, there was no correction for other confounding variables such as socioeconomic status or ethnicity.

July 14, 2016: A recent study finds that one in five “healthy” weight Americans has prediabetes, a sharp increase from 20 years prior. Although abdominal fat has also increased, it does not appear to be the primary cause of this.

July 15, 2016: Diet firm Herbalife gets hit with a $200 million fine for unfair and deceptive practices, and is told it needs to restructure its business. The fine is due to Herbalife operating like a pyramid scheme.

Fat news through July 5, 2016

Sorry, folks; we missed a couple of weeks. But it’s OK, we’re getting caught up right now. Also, just to let you know, we pull story links from Facebook, Tumblr, Yahoo Groups, and other places, but to be honest it’s mostly Facebook these days as there has grown a wonderful network of fat positive people who are finding great stories and studies for us.

Some more honesty: I don’t recall where I got the link about Lizzo, probably from a Facebook friend, but I was really pleased to see Tante Terri take it and run in her recent blog post. Yay, Terri!

So, off we go!

November 26, 2015: Rapper and singer Lizzo’s song “My Skin” celebrates living in your own skin with a music video featuring fat women (first link). As part of the Underneath video project (second link), Lizzo talks about being a fat woman as she removes clothing, wig and makeup showing the beautiful woman underneath.

June 19, 2016: Kath Read gives JC Penney’s video for its new plus-size clothing a rave review, urging other companies to learn from what Penney is doing right in its marketing to the fat community.

June 22, 2016: Substantia Jones and her various projects are highlighted in an article about her current adventure, traveling through the Southern Hemisphere photographing fat people in the nude.

June 24, 2016: Charlotte Cooper provides a basic do and don’t list for healthcare practitioners when dealing with a fat patient, as well as some suggestions on how the fat person can recover after a bad run-in with the healthcare profession. Also, check out NAAFA’s guidelines on the same subject (2nd link) and Stef’s list of fat friendly healthcare professionals (3rd link).

June 27, 2016: A Swedish study find that irrespective of access to health care, socioeconomic status is a predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among people with type 2 diabetes (first link). A related commentary (second link) states that addressing socioeconomic disadvantage may help us better treat type 2 diabetes.

June 29, 2016: An analysis of multiple data sets finds that eating butter has little or no effect on mortality, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. An inverse (protective) effect may exist in relation to diabetes and thus more research is urged to explore the health effects of butter and dairy fat.

June 29, 2016: Brynne Huffman’s Facebook response to a woman who dissed Brynne for wearing shorts goes viral. Here’s hoping that the woman has read it and has learned a lesson about acceptance.

July 5, 2016: Katie Clark explains what it means to be a fat person living in a fatphobic society and why body-shaming is not about health concerns but about buy-in to stereotypes and body policing.

July 5, 2016: Lindy West, author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, came out as a fat woman to friends and co-workers, confronting her boss on his derogatory comments about fat people. Talking about the discrimination faced at the workplace by fat people, she urges that employers embrace a “no body talk” policy.

Fat news through June 14, 2016

Courtesy of me and Tante Terri . . .

May 25, 2016: Artist and activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater presents a talk on the word “fat” and how existing in a fat body can be a radical political statement.

June 2016: A letter to the editor published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings takes the publication to task for categorizing body fat percentage as a healthy lifestyle behavior in a previous article. Unfortunately, the letter continues with hand-wringing about the “war on obesity”.

June 8, 2016: A small study comparing weight loss intervention and weight-neutral health intervention finds that a weight-neutral intervention can yield many health benefits without weight loss, and those benefits are sustainable over a 2 year follow-up period.

June 13, 2016: Katherine DM Clover shares her struggle upon losing thin privilege and relearning to love her body when she became a fat person.

June 14, 2016: London mayor Sadiq Khan bans ads that feature or promote unhealthy body images or are fat-shaming from the London public transportation system.

June 14, 2016: The Aspire Assist device, a tube to the exterior of the body through which one can remove up to a third of the stomach’s contents, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The second link is for a petition demanding the FDA withdraw its approval for this device.

June 14, 2016: Researchers look at five weight-loss medications approved by the FDA and find that none of them are particularly effective.

Fat news through June 7, 2016

Hey, friends! Whaliam here, along with Tante Terri, bringing you this week’s fat news, with a couple of very cool items this time. Enjoy! (or not, as applicable)

May 23, 2016: More survivors from The Biggest Loser talk about what was going on behind the scenes while they were on the show and the long term damage to their lives.

June 2016: The Berkeley Public Library presents Fat Positive Summer Festival, a series of events starting June 22 featuring lecturer and fat activist Virgie Tovar, as well as a group of short films and readings.

June 3, 2016: Doctors’ bias towards fat people can be deadly. When a doctor blames all health issues on excess weight, real health problems go untreated and fat patients wait for treatment until small problems become serious health issues.

June 5, 2016: Curvy Girl Lingerie owner Chrystal believes women of all sizes have the right to feel sexy and have hot sex, and we agree!

June 7, 2016: The latest CDC survey shows a slight upswing in obesity rates, particularly for women. An accompanying editorial published in JAMA wants to blame the food and restaurant industry and believes focus on prevention is the best way to move forward, despite the failure of most interventions used to date.

June 7, 2016: Lina Cohen lets the readers of Teen Vogue know what it is like going to the doctor’s office when you are fat teen. She advocates finding doctors who respect you and treat you with dignity and preferably are onboard with HAES principles.

Fat news through May 29, 2016

News flashes to inspire flashes of anger and (alternatively) joy, as appropriate, from Tante Terri and me.

May 8, 2016: Lindy West talks about her life starting as a baby with an “off-the-charts” large head, growing up as a fat child, and finding herself as a fat adult, as she promotes her book Shrill.

May 18, 2016: The Succulent Six, a fabulous group of fat women from Toronto, did a photo shoot to celebrate International No Diet Day and create a visual message on fat acceptance and fighting food shaming.

May 19, 2016: Buzzfeed asks members why they stopped dieting, and here are some of the answers.

May 20, 2016: Some viewers of UK TV show This Morning complain that the show is promoting obesity after an interview with Tess Holliday. (Tess was actually promoting body positivity, which we support.)

May 23, 2016: Facebook apologizes for banning an advertisement by Cherchez la Femme featuring a photo of Tess Holliday in a bikini because it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”.

May 23, 2016: Various scientists, doctors, and professors criticize a (non-peer reviewed) report by the National Obesity Forum that claims that adding more fat to one’s diet could cut obesity and type 2 diabetes.

May 25, 2016: A recent study finds that fat flyers are bothered more by the stigma they suffer when flying than by actual discomfort of small seats and seatbelts.

May 25, 2016: Based on self-reported data, a new report by the CDC estimates that 30.4% of the population (20 and over) are classified as obese, up slightly from 2014 (29.9%).

May 25, 2016: Skeptic Rebecca Watson misses the point on the news regarding The Biggest Loser, in stating that the research claimed that significant weight loss is impossible, rather than very rare. She also claims the study involves too small of a group, while ignoring that this study only adds to previous research on the subject of long term weight loss.

May 29, 2016: Writing for The Irish Times, Muiris Houston calls into question the wisdom of using BMI as a measure of health, since the overweight classification is associated with a lower mortality rate than any other classification.

Dr. Phil Making a Spectacle Out of Fatness? Say It ain’t So!

What do Kelly Osbourne, NAAFA, and hurtling cupcakes have to do with one another? Apparently, Dr. Phil.

Before I begin, I should admit to never having watched Dr. Phil before last Wednesday, March 10. I’d seen enough quotes from him to know his fat politics and mine didn’t exactly mesh, and I’m frankly annoyed at talk shows in general for totally ignoring the social in favor of the personal. Still, I knew very little about his show in general. I have to admit, I was pretty shocked – and, to my embarrassment, quite entertained – by the Jerry-Springer-esque flavor of the show I viewed.

Let me provide some context. About a week ago, several fat activists in the L.A. Area received emails inviting us to watch a Dr. Phil episode from the front row of the audience. The topic? The Fat Debate *insert ominous music*. Although I had to work that day and my schedule was enormously overburdened, I agreed, especially since I know and adore one of the panelists appearing on the show: Peggy Howell, NAAFA PR goddess.

Let me sweep aside the approximately eight tons of personal drama I endured getting to and from the studio. Our story begins in the front row of the audience, where I was pretty tickled to sit among some fat pride bigwigs in the SoCal Area. Ironically (although not at all surprisingly), the chairs were too small to accommodate my grandness. I had to sit with my arm around my sister, Kris, in order to have room to move my upper body.

After much ado, the episode began. The panelists included (from left to right, from my perspective): MeMe Roth; some random and virulently anti-fat personal trainer; Jillian Michaels (yes, she of The Biggest Loser fame); Kelly Osbourne (Really? I mean, really?!); a panelist (an actor, I believe) who denied she is “pro-fat” but who thinks fatties deserve to be treated decently (sounds kinda pro-fat to me, but what do I know?); Marianne Kirby, author of Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere; and my homie, Peggy Howell.

From the very beginning, it was apparent to me that this wasn’t a serious debate on the topic of fat and health. (Kelly Osbourne? Really?) In fact, I thought the best arguments were the ones Dr. Phil mentioned in the introduction; sadly, most of them were never addressed. Right away, the format of the show and the nature of the guests (Who was that scary personal trainer with a t-shirt that screamed “No Chubbies”?), the show degenerated into the usual, tired discussion of whether fatties are bad, whether we deserve kindness or pity, and whether fat people can ever be healthy. YAWN! The highlight? The I’m-not-pro-fat-actor told MeMe Roth she thought MeMe’s rhetoric was reminiscent of the KKK’s. That garnered at least ten minutes of discussion, little of it productive.

As a sociologist, a human rights activist, and a scholar, I was depressed by how little actually got discussed. It’s not that each side didn’t try but that the format of the show directly pitted people against each other, that the guests (with a couple of exceptions) included people chosen for their sensationalism rather than their knowledge or critical thinking abilities, that Dr. Phil and the producers allowed arguing and screaming matches to replace intelligent discussions, and that the show picked an actor and singer, Kelly Osbourne, to act as panel moderator. I thought Ms. Osbourne did a surprisingly good job, but still, I would have appreciated having someone up there whose criterion for expertise was something a bit more, well, substantive, than recently losing a lot of weight. Well, and being born to a famous rocker. Sadly, the opportunity for calm, insightful, and logical discussions disintegrated in the face of name-calling and spectacle-making.

This was symbolized by the audience makeup. Squeezed into the left half of the first few rows of audience were the fatties, while the thin supporters (you could hear them chirp and scream when Jillian Michaels strode onscreen in her stiletto heels) hunkered on the right. Occasionally, they would make snide comments about fatties, and ever-so-often we would glare or ostentatiously laugh at anti-MeMe jokes (so wickedly immature, I know).

The point is, I realized (probably later than most) that this show was never created with the goal of promoting civil discourse. It was all about controversy, titillation, and raised voices. For all the positive influence it had on larger discussions of the issues, it may as well have been on Jerry Springer. This isn’t the fault of any one panelist; — although I did want to slap a couple for being consistently disruptive and inflammatory — it is instead a result of the “needs” of the medium for cheap ratings.

This is all from the perspective of a Ph.D. who has to beat* talk show culture teachings out of her students every single day. Now, had I written as a media consumer, I would have said the show was great fun and I had a blast blowing metaphorical raspberries at MeMe Roth and scary personal trainer guy. What? I’m human, too.

And by the way, the cupcake hurtling I mentioned before? It’s how personal trainer guy motivates his clients to push themselves harder in their exercise regimes. He also uses whips.

Thank god for the educational power of television.

* Not literally — I’m not the scary trainer guy.

The Good Fattie

This is a post from my other blog, Unapologetically Fat, which I’ve been asked to cross-post here.

This post was inspired by MezzoShiri’s post “Addicted to Life

She brings up a theme that I’ve been struggling with myself, and have seen throughout the fatosphere as of late: The Myth of the Good Fattie.

One of these days someone will come up with a comprehensive “stages” list for Fat Acceptance, which a significant number of people pass through at some point or another on their path to body acceptance, although not everyone or in the same order.

One stage would be “ok for other people.” This means that you accept that other people could be happy with their bodies, but there’s something somehow radically unique about your own that makes it not an option for you.

Another would be the “Good Fattie” stage.

There is an idea that often crops up, if subconsciously, that somehow you have to “earn” fat acceptance by being as healthy as possible. If you exercise regularly and eat healthy and somehow escape disease or disability but remain fat, you are then relieved of an obligation to prove to people that it can be done. You can say, both to yourself and to others, “look, I do everything I’m supposed to. I’m fat and healthy. You can’t blame my lifestyle for my weight.”

But working hard, restricting your food and exercising while fat to justify your right to exist isn’t all that much different than doing all that to lose weight and justify your right to exist. They both start with the premise that you have to somehow earn your right to be a human being.

Don’t get me wrong here…if you’re active because you like to be active, or eat a certain way because that’s the food you like (or have religious or medical restrictions) then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact there’s everything right about that because you’re doing it for yourself. But if you can’t afford fresh produce every day, or you work two jobs (yes parenting counts as at least one full time job) and literally have no energy for anything but a microwave dinner and sleep, or you damn well don’t like vegetables, hate to exercise, are physically unable to exercise, etc……there’s nothing wrong with that either. The life you live as a fat person does not somehow disqualify you from deserving to be happy.

To the point, a quote from MezzoShiri’s post:

“But as I’m trying to find my own voice in FA circles, I can feel the weight of internal pressure about how I’m not being a “good example” of Fat Acceptance, and I’m not being any sort of example for the idea of Health at Every Size. Talk about cognitive dissonance.”

The Good Fattie kind of thinking does create a division in FA. I’ve seen questions from the beginning of my involvement about how the “Death Fat” (i.e. “morbidly obese”) or fat and sick feel they’re marginalized. There’s this fear that sick fatties especially serve as an example that contradicts the message of FA. So in-between, currently abled fatties serve as “poster children” for the movement, while the rest wonder how they fit in.

Is there hidden vestiges of fat prejudice behind this? Maybe there’s a part of me that I haven’t managed to excise yet which still contains the internalized message that I have to toe a certain line in order to deserve to be accepted as a fat person. Maybe I’ve transformed that message into the idea that I would be somehow “letting down the team” if I didn’t exercise and eat a balanced diet whenever I could afford to do so; That I have some kind of responsibility to the FA movement to be as perfect a representative as possible.

Or is it simply anticipating the fat prejudice of others? It could be that I’m afraid of being diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease (I expect both will show up in my life like genetic clockwork) because if I am fat and have one of the stigmatized “fat diseases” it will somehow take away the authority of my message. After all, wouldn’t I then be walking justification for all the “booga-booga-obesity!” hysteria? How can I say fat doesn’t cause diabetes if I’m fat and have diabetes?

No, what I think is more likely is that the real issue is self-confidence. Despite all my efforts towards banishing the self-hate and accepting my body in its natural state, there is still a part of me that feels I somehow have to earn the right to be treated as a human being. I still have that small lurking voice that tells me that I can only afford to be fat if I am Acceptable Fat, and toe the line of an acceptable lifestyle.

Now the first problem with that is that it hurts me personally. It attaches my self-image to the judgment of others, which is never healthy. I have made a point this summer of working on banishing the Acceptable Fat dependency in myself. Maybe peeling away those layers is what let me recognize this particular thought nugget.

The other problem is that no matter what my motivation, the myth of the good fattie lets itself out. By asserting my right to exist based on the premise that I exercise and eat healthy, I marginalize those who cannot or choose to not do those things. They, and I, have an inherent right to exist that has nothing to do with lifestyle or privilege. By hanging my lifestyle choices out like a flag of defiance I accomplish nothing but alienation. So I absolutely apologize if the unconscious belief in the Good Fattie has coloured my voice and opinions.

If I do believe that fat is not the cause of a person’s state of health, and if I do believe that everyone has the right to dignity and respect as a human being regardless of size, then it should naturally extend that they have that right regardless of health as well. Health issues are stigmatized in this country because we somehow still hold onto the Calvinistic belief that health is earned or forfeit through good behaviour. Supporting human rights for people of all sizes and states of health is accepting the idea that my own state of health is a combination of genetics and luck. It’s a heady thing to give up that illusion of control, but perhaps if health issues weren’t as stigmatized as they are, the superstitious need to blame something (previously sin, currently fatness) would also diminish. Or vice-versa.

All I know is that I really do believe that size acceptance applies at every point of the spectrum of body size. Healthy choices are possible at every point as well, but health is not a reflection of morality, any more than thinness or wealth.

Pro-Fat Bumper Sticker

My sister recently sent me a car magnet shaped like a big, purple ribbon. “Save a life – adopt shelter pets!” it brightly proclaims. I hugged it to my ample bosom before happily slapping it on the side of my itty bitty Scion. The world already feels more animal friendly to me.

That got me thinking, though: If I were to design a bumper sticker or ribbon that perfectly encapsulated my fat pride, what would it say? I mean, I would want it to be in-your-face, but celebratory, stereotype-smashing, yet poignant. After some thinking, I came up with the following:

I’m fat. Not chubby, not obese, not queen-sized. I may or may not eat all my veggies, might or might not exercise regularly, could or could not have diabetes or high blood pressure. Really, unless you want me to ask you about the regularity of your bowel activities, breast exams, and/or usage of Viagra, howzabout we agree to leave questions of “health” at home? I do not drive up your health care costs; I am not a ticking, flesh-wrapped time bomb; and I have zero mommy issues. Sitting halfway in your airplane seat ain’t exactly a carnival for me, either. Making clothing, chairs, and bathroom stalls that fit me do not encourage me to be fat; they just make me comfy and therefore less grumpy. This benefits both of us. I’m not miserable, I don’t hate my body, and I don’t have an oral fixation or pathological relationships with food and sex. In fact, I like my body just the way it is. I do not care to lose weight, and I’m not quite sure why so many others want me to. Others may urge me to change my body to fit better into this thin world, but instead I’m committed to changing this world to make room for all sizes and sorts of bodies, including my own sexy, sassy, beautiful fat body.

Hmmm. I think I might need to buy a slightly larger car.