Reading List: Links, commentary, and a musical recommendation

By | June 2, 2010

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Brant Jarrett, of Ohio State University, one of the researchers, said: “There is a myth going on. Our findings show being overweight is no different from being what we believe is a healthy weight and this is across a person’s entire lifespan… Don’t worry if you are overweight. What is all that stress and dieting doing to your body? Probably more damage than the extra 15lb.

“Being obese before you are 40 has no correlation to your health either. The risk that people are told about does not exist.” (Source)

From another article covering this study:

Among the over-forties obese people were significantly more likely to be taking medication for a health problem related to physical factors (as opposed to mental conditions, which were removed from the statistics). Even then the difference between norms and fatties was barely bigger than that between men and women – women are much more likely to be on medication than men are.

In fact, normal-BMI US women over 40 are almost as likely to be on medication as obese-BMI men: the proportions are 57 and 61 per cent respectively. It would seem that simply being female is pretty much as bad for you – and as expensive for society to pay for – as being a fat man. (Source)

Surprise! Now y’all know I’m not hugely invested in these sorts of studies; too many of them are funded by people and organizations who are invested in a certain outcome, and if you’re inclined to argue that !SCIENCE! is always bias-free, then you and I find ourselves at a crossroads. I’m always interested in outcomes like the above, however, because it does fly in the face of our all-consuming conventional wisdom on the subject, and let’s be frank: nobody profits via a result like this, whereas lots of people (diet-pill manufacturers, commercial diet plans, WLS surgeons) can profit by results showing that fat = imminent death. While that doesn’t necessarily make the results discussed above more true, it does make them interesting.

Sadly, while some researchers will likely leap at the chance to test this theory, it will take many years and many more studies before these notions trickle down to mainstream culture and everyday people, who are secure that they things they already know must be true simply because everybody just knows that. I also find it curious how this is a study out of a major American university and the coverage seems to be happening primarily in the UK. Could it be that we in the US are so invested in obesity-epidemic handwringing that we can’t handle criticism? Hat tip to Big Fat Blog for the heads up.

Women and body image: a man’s perspective

When his girlfriend has a meltdown, and says she hates her body, that is not a simple concept. Unlike men, women do not have a simple relationship with their bodies. They have a complex relationship with their bodies. This is what men often don’t understand. When it comes to their bodies, women are extremely vulnerable – and, what’s more, lots of people take advantage of that vulnerability. This makes the situation worse.

Men don’t have to contend with this – the hair people, and the make-up people, and the fashion people, and the shoe people, and the bra people, and the nail people, and the eyelash people, and the Botox people, and the cosmetic surgery people, and the perfume people, and the hair-removal people. Oh, and the diet people.

This is an insightful, well-researched and thought-provoking article, written by a man, about trying to understand women’s body issues on their terms and not his own. I had a(n ostensibly male) commenter earlier this week who said, in part: “I do not buy the concept that the fashion world parading skinny women up and down the runway sets a standard that sane women are trying to achieve. If it were true, being obese would not be an epidemic in America. The opposite would be true.” The comment made me both chuckle out loud and wonder how many women this guy really knows. He could take a lesson from the gentleman who penned the article above: chicks ain’t the same as you. Whether that makes sense to you is irrelevant; women’s bodies are cultural currency in a way that men’s bodies are not. This is the way of the world.

Oh, mens.

The amazing Frances of Corpulent has had her fantastic post, “Obesity really is disgusting,” about a new study analyzing social attitudes toward fat people, reblogged on Jezebel.

Not much to say here but hooray, so here is a snippet:

In general, the social groups rated most negatively and with the highest levels of disgust were those perceived to have an element of personal control over being a member of that group. Obese people were among the most negatively viewed groups, on par with homeless people (which is incredibly problematic, but that’s a rant for another day) and politicians. The only groups rated as more negatively and as more disgusting were drug addicts and smokers.

There have been two new Fatcasts in the past week, one on language and “safe space”, and the other on questioning reality. You can listen online in the usual place or subscribe via iTunes or using your preferred method of podcast-grabbing. Upcoming podcasts will talk about fat travel (this is a two-parter), and we’re going to assemble some listener questions for a minisode. So if you have questions, fire away! You can email, comment, or use our new Fatcast-specific Formspring page.

And now for something completely different: remember my teenage-outsider memories post of a week or so ago? Want to hear some music (not involving covers of The Murmurs or Violent Femmes) by my open-mic-night enabler? Mr. Alex Nelson has an album you can buy; I have done so and can thus offer an enthusiastic personal recommendation to those of y’all who enjoy music.

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