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We’re Fatter Than We Thought

Posted on Apr 3, 2012

New study, new round of bad news. Researchers have determined that the level of obesity in the U.S. is being dramatically underreported. The current, too-conservative estimate already says that one in three Americans is obese, so this may be one time you don’t want to click “Read more.”

Here’s a disturbing revelation, brought to us by the BBC: “Their study, published in the journal PLoS One, said up to 39% of people who were not currently classified as obese actually were.” Another fun fact provided by this research: According to a new estimate, more than 64 percent of American women are obese.

So, how did we manage to overlook the obese millions hiding among us?

The researchers decided that the body mass index or BMI, the main test of obesity, had been misleading. They tested this by going through a previous study and identifying obese people who failed a more accurate fat test but passed the normal BMI check. The underreporting of obesity was a problem especially among older women, due to muscle loss.

Of course one might prefer not to have the question of whether he or she is obese decided by medical professionals arguing over standards and practices. Instead, one might try jogging, eating more greens and saying “no” to the voice inside that shouts, “It’s Thanksgiving, I’m an American and it’s my right to eat as much pumpkin pie as the Costco will sell me!”  —PZS

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 11, 2012 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

You are delusional, if that’s how you view your behavior here.

Report this

By heterochromatic, April 11, 2012 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

why honey, i think that my efforts here are directed by a strong urge to pull the
threads out of the shit.


more seriously, what’s your idea of a good and healthy lunch these days?

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 11, 2012 at 11:14 am Link to this comment


Are you serious?

You post 24/7 here every day trying to turn every single thread to shit and you complain because I indicated that non-profit grant receivers don’t necesssarily wear halos?

And that includes Native American non-profit administrators, who are more than frequently appointed by the BIA anyway.

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By heterochromatic, April 11, 2012 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

moonie—there’s no shortage of shitty stuff
happening and the occasional small decent things that
are done don’t, of course, qualify us for sainthood,
but shouldn’t be shit upon for cynicism’s sake.

you really want to discount the intentions of someone
cleaning and debriding the stumps of strangers who
couldn’t get out of their trailers all winter?

(and no, no pay at all and not what she was there to

stick to talking shit about a miserable sinners such
as myself who was more interested in being there to
visit his girl friend and to take the tour through
the incredibly swampy part of the place known as
Frogtown…(and not named for having anything to do
with the French ... or the Quebecois)

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By moonraven, April 11, 2012 at 9:00 am Link to this comment


Everybody writes grants that way—otherwise they don’t get the money.

I wrote a couple million in grants for family services programs back in the late 70s early 80s.  My agency did stick pretty close to what we said we would do, but lots of other agencies did not—hence they were cut from the pack when Reagan went after social services.

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

it was never anything on our agenda….. administrative work is nothing that she
enjoys…. and she wrote the grant proposals to read that the highest salary on
offer was under $40k…..just so that there would be no cushy jobs….she also
included the proviso that the head of the clinic had to have an MD or RN and be a
member of the tribe.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

You espected her to be given a big-bucks salary just because she was white, huh?

Geez, Cry me a river.

We native folks have better senses of humor than that! 

A clinic building and a few bucks for meds and maybe a doctor and a nurse are small recompense for ripping off a big hunk of North America and exterminating the folks living on that land.  She’s lucky she got a plaque.

Spare me the White Man’s Burden yadayada.  It’s just another term for imperialism.

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment

well, bear in mind that when you insult the mrs, you’re insulting an honorary
Akwesasne…...and all she ever got for bringing in a couple of million bucks for a
clinic to a rez where people were in desperate need of healthcare ....where she got
to clean the stumps of people who lost their legs to diabetes and would sit in their
trailers wearing black trash bags….....were a bunch of free drinks ( for some
reason Black Russians was the rage) at the bar on Friday night.

they did offer to make her asst administrator of the clinic when it opened, but she
wanted to go back for her doctorate., so she got a plaque.

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By moonraven, April 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Oh right.

Your wife is pure as the driven snow.

What’s she doing with someone like you who promotes genocide against non-whites, then?

And your comments to me about my giving blowjobs to goats are not gratutitous and gross?

Shit no.  When a white troll salaried by the US government to post drivel in internet makes those comments, they are the gospel according to Saint Trogolyte.

On a more serious note, that reservation is not very far from where my people come from—Odanak, on the Abenaki reserve in Quebec.

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Akwesasne @ St Regis…...If you knew my mrs you wouldn’t have suggested that
she would eve take a penny. that was gratuitous and gross.

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By moonraven, April 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

Okay, I’ll bite:

1. Which reservation?

2. How much did your wife skim off the grants for administrative costs and how much went to The Rez?

3. The US government “gave” (sic) the natives what they considered to be “worthless” land—that is, land where no white would choose to live.  Then they got burnt with that caper when it turned out that those worthless lands contained a huge percentage of the uranium, iron, copper and other minerals that they wanted to build bombs and other stuff.

3.  So then they came up with the idea of leasing the land that did not belong to them, but to the native folks, to Anaconda and all the other big guns of mining destruction of the environment.  And of leasing it for peanuts so that the natives would not put up a big stink when even those peanuts were placed in trust and the natives could not decide what to do with their own peanuts.

4.  So Indians continue to live iin the direst poverty conditions in the US, and when a few groups decided to take advantage of the whites’ gambling and liquor addictions by opening casinos, whites bitched and moaned that the natives should not be allowed to participate in the US capitalist economy—and beat a pounding path to the slot machines and black jack tables.

5.  Outside of the casino jobs, unemployment on the reservations is right about 75%—on a good day, with the wind blowing from the south.

6.  As a final bit of data, tell us how many of the BIA houses on that reservation you referenced as the coldest spot in the country have central heating?

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment

my wive spent years working on a reservation and did pretty good.  brought in a
bunch of grant money and started the first health clinic there. ...and other stuff
that got her made a member .

I spent only a little bit of time there…..

and you’re right about one thing. reservations are sited on some of the worst
fucking spots on the continent.

this particular one is in the coldest place in the country. the damned army trains
it’s Mountain and Cold weather troops nearby.

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By moonraven, April 10, 2012 at 11:58 am Link to this comment


Tell me about all your years living on The Rez, white boy.

And how you knocked back asparagus spears and filet mignon and goat cheese salad on your income of 400 bucks a month.

Then I will stop laughing my ass off.

Or not.

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

fry bread ain’t something that folks are required to eat and poverty is only one
factor in people having a lousy diet.

people on reservations are just as educable as any one else and they don’t need to
be patronized by the likes of you.

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By moonraven, April 10, 2012 at 10:54 am Link to this comment


1.  I don’t wholesalely condemn “Americans”—but I do object to you gringos hogging a term that refers to this hemisphere.  At best, you are Northamericans.

2.  I have little sympathy for those folks, however, as they maintain the colonial settler state on North America and a system of bantustans called Indian reservations that would make Afrikaaners green with envy.  One the the fattest population groups in the US lives on those reservations, where annual income is less than 5,000 per capita, which olnly buys a bunch of fry bread.

Stop trying to generalize from a case of one—your own.  Your case is not the majority.

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By heterochromatic, April 10, 2012 at 5:37 am Link to this comment

TG——wanna try saying that the incidence of hypothyroidism is greater than 1%
of the population?

Most Americans who are fat are fat for the obvious reasons: lousy diet and not
much exercise.

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By mrfreeze, April 10, 2012 at 5:23 am Link to this comment

tobysgirl - With respect, your comment:

“No, all metabolic activity is not the same. One person eats 2000 calories and loses weight, another gains, both engaging in the same level of physical activity. And I agree with the author of The Diet Cure that when a person continually eats a low-calorie diet, their metabolism drops.”

1) Yes, all basic chemistry in muscle tissue is the same at the cell level. The body converts food into sugar and burns it (a simple, elegant process). Everything that happens in-between, the twinkies, the oversized steaks, the huge deep-fried onions and turkeys, etc. is where Americans are getting into trouble.

2) My cousins in Italy eat pasta twice a day and lead active lives…..not one goes to a gym. It’s their LIFESTYLE, that works.

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By Tobysgirl, April 10, 2012 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

moonraven, I wasn’t referring to you (should I have been?) in using the word nonthinking. I am sorry you thought so, but.

For all of you who think I’m some sort of anomaly, so many people are hypothyroid that the medicos are now saying that normal body temperature is less than they thought for all those decades. When your metabolism is not working (and if you have any northern European, native Arctic Circle, etc ancestry, you may have these problems), guess what, your body temperature, your blood pressure, your heartbeat are depressed. The last time I was wheeled into surgery, my body temp was 95 degrees.

Rather than having people test their waking temperature (free, easy to do at home), medicos rely on something called the TSH, which for most hypothyroid people is perfectly normal. When you want to scream about lazy fat people—who have been shown in study after study to work as hard as thin people—you might consider the millions of us out here suffering from some of the many symptoms of hypothyroidism: high cholesterol, depression, constant infections, heavy menstrual cycles, painfully dry skin, hair loss, on and on.

No, all metabolic activity is not the same. One person eats 2000 calories and loses weight, another gains, both engaging in the same level of physical activity. And I agree with the author of The Diet Cure that when a person continually eats a low-calorie diet, their metabolism drops.

And before you condemn “Americans” wholesale, you might spend five minutes thinking about the kind of society we live in. It is extremely stressful, people work extraordinarily hard, we lack basic access to decent benefits, and telling some woman who has just come home from her second, low-paying job to fix dinner, help her kids with homework, do laundry and housework, that she needs to go to the gym is obscene.

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By moonraven, April 9, 2012 at 10:23 am Link to this comment


1.  I do not accept being called a “non-thinking type”.

2.  I posted that the causes for fat were variable.  I even MENTIONED your case of metabolic disturbance.

3.  It seems to me that either you did not read my post, or you chose to jump on my ass because I am not white and therefore fair game for a tantrum.

4.  It’s not MY FAULT you have thyroid problems.  Any more than it’s YOUR fault I have had systemic lupus since infancy.

It looks to me like everybody in Gringolandia is simply insane.

It also looks to me like you owe my an apology.

I won’t hold my breath.

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By heterochromatic, April 9, 2012 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

TG—- exceptions due to abnormality doesn’t prove the rule invalid…..modifies it a
bit is all.

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By mrfreeze, April 9, 2012 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

Tobysgirl - With respect, your personal physical condition very well may apply to certain people, but the chemistry of metabolism is fairly straightforward: The body converts food into sugar which is burned in muscle cells. Fats are burned in the presence of sugar and oxygen. Americans are eating too many calories that they aren’t burning off and therefore store the excess as fat.

Exercise is the magic pill to most of these issues. Perhaps with you things are different, but most Americans eat filth, sit on their asses all day and are simply too lazy to change their situations. Suffice it to say, there are a slew of large corporations who like it this way including the fast food industry, restaurants, manufactured food companies and my favorite, the whole HUGE diabetes industry…....There’s money in them thar adipose tissues!!!!!

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By Tobysgirl, April 9, 2012 at 6:24 am Link to this comment

moonraven, check out the fat sites; there are “obese” people who feel healthy.

And if I read one more person saying calories in, calories out, I’m going to scream. Has it ever occurred to you nonthinking types that metabolism has a great deal to do with how your body handles calories? My inherited hypothyroidism—extremely common among cold-climate peoples—had a purpose in famine situations, though it caused many people to die of infections. Your thyroid drives EVERY cell in your body. Before being treated, I could be moderately active and not lose weight on about 800 calories a day. To lose weight, I had to do strenuous outdoor work 5 or 6 hours per day, eating that same 800 to 1000 calories.

So that blows that old calories in, calories out crapola. I would ask that you be thankful that your metabolic system is working and that you did not end up with a massive internal infection like I did, due to undiagnosed, untreated, and GLARING hypothyroidism.

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By moonraven, April 5, 2012 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

Fat is as fat does—and that’s pretty variable.

Fat folks exercise less than they need to to burn the calories they take in.

Studies have shown that fat folks in the majority have a fat self-image—they feel themselves as fat by nature and they feel it’s impossible for them to be thin.  Some fat folks were sexually abused as children and feel that fat will protect them by making them unattractive to sexual predators.  Some folks are fat because their thyroid is underactive.  There are lots of reasons for folks being fat.

Most of those problems that have led to being fat do have solutions:  Counseling, medical intervention, not eating so much, not using food as a substitute for loving relationships, etc.

I’d like to lose 20 pounds or so, as when I was in my teens and 20s I weighed between 105 and 125 pounds and was a size 3, and my current weight (around 170) and clothing size (12) seems VERY different. I have had systemic lupus from early childhood, and at 67 I simply cannot keep up the hyperactive pace I used to. A lot of women at my weight would look fat and wear bigger clothes than mine—I don’t look particularly fat because I have been a dancer almost all my life as well as an inveterate walker, so I am muscular.  And I do not eat junk food.  I cook most of my meals and I am a very skilled cook.  I believe in slow food—and for the poster who mentioned eating habits in Italy, there is a reason that slow food started there as a movement.

I feel bigger than I would like to be at times, and then I remember the bummer of looking for some of my clothes in the young juniors department—which when you are 5 feet ten does not work. 

There are trade offs.  If you feel fairly healthy, I suppose it doesn’t matter what size you are.  But the kicker is this:  I don’t know any obese folks who do feel healthy.

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By heterochromatic, April 5, 2012 at 8:03 am Link to this comment

while some people’s bodies are more prone to fat, the science is pretty clear…......
burn as many calories in exercise as you consume… a bunch and don’t get
away from the desk or couch and you’ll fatten yourself up.

join the lewis and Clark Expedition and spend every day in long and strenuous
exercise and you’ll be obliged to eat like hell merely to maintain your weight.

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By mrfreeze, April 5, 2012 at 6:32 am Link to this comment

Tobysgirl - “And what do we mean by fat? Look at old photographs and see how many middle-aged farm women were stout.”

The “perfect” question! Thanks for asking. Allow me to answer:

Just take a look at Covert Bailey’s work from the 70’s-90’s in the biochemistry of “fat” (and his subsequent works having to do with being “fit or fat”) and the idea of fat is spelled out quite well. Indeed, he spends a lot of time discussing the notion of lean body mass vs body fat, exercise and the relationship between the two. All those “stout” people out there who don’t conform to the “commercial notion” of beauty or skinniness have nothing to do with “fat.” (Did you know that men on the Lewis and Clark expedition consumed 20lbs of meat PER DAY whilst plowing across the plains, mountains & rivers of this big country…....and they didn’t have cardiovascular disease.)

My comment was directed at the notion that Americans eat filth… why would they expect to be healthy (fat or not?). My Italian cousins literally eat pasta 2 times a day and, if one believes carbs are evil, they are all actually walking dead people…..with a great sense of humor.

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By Tobysgirl, April 5, 2012 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

What no one is taking into account here are the health issues and medications that can make it impossible to lose weight or very, very difficult to stop eating.

Hey, myfreeze, come to my house and I’ll put you to work. I am fat and disabled (the weight is in large part due to about 40 years of undiagnosed and glaring hypothyroidism) and care for a draft horse (this includes keeping his paddock clean of 80 pounds of manure daily), six rescued dogs and cats, large gardens, an orchard, several acres of pasture (fence management, spreaading manure by hand, weeding), lawns, an old house that needs a lot of work, cutting, splitting, stacking firewood from our woodlot, etc. There are a lot of fat women in rural America who are far more active than skinny urbanites.

Regarding medications, look at the so-called side effects and see how many include weight gain or “unexplained” weight gain. I have severe arthritis due to sports injuries, and cannot take any pain medication because of what they do to blood sugar (lower it). I have low/normal cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

And what do we mean by fat? Look at old photographs and see how many middle-aged farm women were stout. Do any of you ever think that just like cholesterol and blood pressure (whose numbers keep getting lowered so big pharma can make more money), “ideal weight” numbers keep getting lowered so docs can make money ruining people’s guts, selling medications, etc?

All I ask is that people THINK instead of swallowing propaganda wholesale (worse for you than that candy bar).

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By nicefind, April 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is high correlation between poverty and obesity. Certainly american portion size has increased but that isn’t inherently apparent in the conscious mind. Please always mention poverty when discussing obesity. honest you can cite ellemarz because its almost exactly like the harpers article called LET THEM EAT FAT. research it. you will never blame an individual american for their overweight, but for the american society that is overly commerically polluted.

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By Korky Day, April 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

One of the main mistakes that health professionals make is to promote moderation.  We’re in an extreme trap so only extreme remedies will work.  It’s easier to eat no sick food than to keep your consumption low.  For instance, I haven’t had a candy bar since 1967 and never have gained any weight since.  I’m trim.

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By mrfreeze, April 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment

I’ve mentioned this before:

I spend a good deal of time in Italy with cousins who eat an incredibly diverse cuisine which is not-at-all geared toward or inspired by all the bulls-shit diet, fad nonsense that so inundates the U.S. Hardly a cousin is fat. The elders are in good shape. The children have palates that are a quantum leap beyond the average adult American. They are essentially “good eaters.” UNFORTUNATELY, it is the “food-science” inspired, manufactured, corporate filth from other lands that has infected Italian food culture. Most of it has grown out of our fast-food industry and, I’m afraid, Italians are slowly becoming more like us….....This is what convinces me that there is no god, for if there were, “it” would not allow this to happen.

One more thing: If Americans want to quit being the big, fat, fucking piles of glop that they’ve become, there’s a simple solution: they need to quit eating “filth” and get off their asses and burn off the calories. Come take a bike ride with me and I’ll have you burn off about 1000 calories. Do that several times a week, eat seasonally and quit listening to all the “food science” out there…then you’ll feel a lot better.

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By oakland steve, April 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

Hi to all of the pleasingly plump/chubby/fat/obese and just plain overweight,

There is one and only one reason for your weighing more than is healthy for you and that is you take in more calories than you burn.  Period.  That’s it.

Now, one might choose to eat all fast food, low or no carbs or vegetarian, among a universe of possibilities.  (I am a vegan as I am trying to keep my cholesterol as low as possible.)  Whatever benefits or detriments accrue via your choice of foods, one thing remains:  If you eat more than you burn, you’ll gain.

If anyone can point me to facts that suggest that I’m in error, please do.  I’ve been getting on and off of scales for 64 years while trying all kinds of diets, and none works if you consume more than you use.

iBuen provecho!

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By D.R. Zing, April 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

Hi ellamarz,

You hit the nail on the head several times with your

Diets have never worked for me but permanently
changing my eating habits did.  I eat less than one
hundred grams of carbs per day, and I try to get my
protein and fat at breakfast or lunch when I still
have time to burn them off.

You are definitely right about it being more
expensive to eat right. It is time consuming as well. 
One thing that staves off hunger well is a nice mix of micro-nutrients, fat and protein.

Try this:  Chopped onions, chopped mushrooms, a
chopped carrot, fresh oregano leaves, baby bok choy,
chopped tofurkey sausages (or chicken or beef, your
preference), chipotle chili powder, red pepper,
garlic, and a a bit of olive oil.  Handful of grapes
on the side. 

It’s a killer meal that keeps me full anywhere from
four to six hours. Now add up the cost. It’s an
expensive home cooked meal and it takes about 30
minutes to prepare, a luxury many don’t have. 

Some of the solutions involve regulating the use of
high fructose corn syrup and forcing the labeling of
white bread and white rice with notes such as: “This
products lacks fiber. Your body converts this product
to sugar very quickly, frequently resulting in
increased appetite, obesity, diabetes, and heart

All the best.

D.R. Zing

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By moonraven, April 4, 2012 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

This article is soooooooooo behind the times!!!!!!!!

I don’t know when this under-reporting that it references was going on, but THREE years ago in newspapers here in Mexico it was reported that 67% of US women were obese and 64% of the men.

This was of great interest to folks in Mexico due to Mexico’s being inundated constantly with junk food from Gringolandia since NAFTA went into effect Jan. 1, 1994 and the subsequent dramatic increase in obesity here in Mexico.

Imperialism even in the toxic crap it exports for folks to eat.

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By E. Cantu, April 4, 2012 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ ellemarz: Great counter-argument and great argument in general. I couldn’t agree with you more. I hope you’re active in getting such a message out to other places than this comment board on

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By ellemarz, April 4, 2012 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

The issue of weight in America is so much more
complicated than this article paints. I think it
would behoove Truthdig to spend some quality time
looking at many of the factors involved rather than
post over-simplified blipverts that do little to
actually dig to the root of this “problem”.  Here
are some factors that I believe contribute the so-
called obesity “problem” in the US:

1. Weightism: Hollywood and the media have created
and perpetuated the attitude that being anything but
anorexic is somehow “bad”.  History and anthropology
demonstrate that not all times and cultures viewed
weight in this way. We need to stop allowing the
media to dictate our body image for us, especially

2. Sexism: Why the predominant focus on women’s body
weight?  Men get obese also but somehow they seem
more except from our scrutiny.  Related to 1 above.

3. The “diet industry” makes billions of dollars
with gimmicks and fads that might take a few pounds
off here and there but ultimately cause people to
gain those pounds back plus.  I’ve experienced this
first hand and will NEVER use a “diet” again.  These
“companies” prey on people’s discomfort with their

4a. Poverty: Without the means to purchase more
nutritious food, the poor will gravitate toward the
cheaper, more obsequious junk food.  Fast food is by
far cheaper than its healthier counterpart—not to
mention more accessible.  Most poorer communities
are food deserts, which means many people cannot
easily get to a major grocery store but must rely on
quick marts for their sustenance. 

4b. Poor-ism: Coinciding with the inability to
purchase more nutritious, less fattening foods, is
our current trend toward poor bashing. It appears
that the poorer the person the more likely she will
be fat.  The current fixation we have on obesity
seems pretty targeted toward those with lower
incomes.  It’s rare to see a fat rich person on
television, but there are hordes of fat poor people
just waiting to take something from the rich they
don’t deserve.  A blast from the Reagan past of the
Caddy-driving welfare queen imagery.

5. Bottle vs. breast-feeding: I was born in the mid
1960’s when bottle-feeding was the rage.  My mother
bought into the baby-food industries push to
eliminate breast-feeding altogether in order to
profit from their crappy formula which, at that
time, was LOADED with carbs and fat.  Needless to
say, I have ALWAYS had weight issues since once
those fat cells are formed in early childhood, they
do not go away.  Moreover, because my mother overfed
me (I was a firstborn), it’s always been very
difficult for me to feel full (although I am
learning).  By way of comparison, my siblings were
ALL breastfed exclusively—none of them have weight
issues as I have.  I’ve tested my “theory” with
others and have discovered that those of us who were
predominantly bottle-fed do have more weight issues
than those who were not.

6: Environment: We live on a polluted planet, we
literally and figuratively EAT petroleum, and it
contributes to our health and weight problems.
Moreover, we’ve created and contributed to a social,
economic and political system that creates more
stress and anxiety than perhaps any other
“developed” nation. We work longer hours (40 is not
the norm), we take fewer vacations, we are inundated
with constant fear-mongering, and on a deeper level,
I think most of us feel that where our country is
heading is not beneficial nor moral.  No wonder
we’re the highest consumers of anti-depressants,
recreational drugs and alcohol.  We medicate because
we’re miserable.  Food just becomes another

My suggestion is that the debate on obesity should
be less about criticizing those of us who are fat
and more about looking at what contributes to the
problem.  Find solutions based on all factors,
social, economic as well as individual change.

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