Short Cuts: You wanna be on top? edition

By | May 5, 2011

A very fat woman straddles a slender man, both in silhouetted profile.

Photo by Sam Vide, from the Village Voice article discussed below.

Let’s start at the bottom, and work our way up.

The Daily Mail, true to its usual levels of fail, has published an article whose sole purpose is to showcase a paranoid theory that wearing leggings will make you fatter.

Physiotherapist Sammy Margo said: ‘Leggings… hold in and support the quadriceps (thigh muscles), buttocks and core muscles in your tummy, and do the job the muscles are supposed to do.

‘As a result, the muscles are allowed to relax and switch off, so when we reveal our bodies for the first time as summer approaches, they are not as svelte or firm as they otherwise would be.’

THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC [sic] HAS BEEN SOLVED. Scientists can go home now! All we need to do is get a bill before Congress outlawing the sale and consumption of leggings and legging-related products. MSNBC isn’t much better, because they’ve actually bothered to respond to the above with a “fact check” featuring experts of their own. It’s an EXPERT THROWDOWN.

“That’s ridiculous,” says Dr. Jana Klauer, a weight loss expert in private practice in New York City. “There’s nothing in leggings that would cause any change to occur within the muscle or the fat of the leg,” she says.


While she admits that a too-tight legging on a chunky person can emphasize the wrong things and a fuller figure might look better in a semi-fitted, more relaxed pant, the clothes themselves “can’t make you fat or skinny.”

WHEW. Thanks MSNBC! No, wait, that’s not what I meant to say. What I meant to say was “fuck all y’all, and your stupid body-loathing crap!”

Elsewhere, earlier this week the New York Times ran an article about a new study, the first of its kind, which tracked the long-term efficacy of fat removal by liposuction. What’d these intrepid researchers discover? Surprisingly, it turns out the suctioned fat doesn’t stay away for long.

The result, published in the latest issue of Obesity, was that fat came back after it was suctioned out. It took a year, but it all returned. But it did not reappear in the women’s thighs. Instead, Dr. Eckel said, “it was redistributed upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.


…[O]besity researchers say they are not surprised that the women’s fat came back. The body, they say, “defends” its fat. If you lose weight, even by dieting, it comes back. And, the study showed, if you suck out the fat with liposuction, even if it’s only a pound, as it was for subjects in the study, it still comes back.

“It’s another chapter in the ‘You can’t fool Mother Nature’ story,’ ” said Dr. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University.

The women in the study were “nonobese”, as recipients of liposuction tend to be—laboring as we all do under the yoke of our biology, liposuction cannot remove more than a pound or so of fat before the patient goes into shock, at which point her life is at stake. Thus, liposuction is really for folks with tiny cosmetic concerns, and not for substantial weight loss. As much as we’re told that our fat tissue is a horrible poison, pervading our bodies and slowly killing us all, it seems our bodies have a different take on the matter, and don’t cotton to big dramatic weight changes. Which is, uh, probably why it’s so difficult, if not impossible, for many people to permanently lose weight.

The fact that even liposuctioned fat regenerates elsewhere further underscores what lots of folks have argued anecdotally (and scientifically) for years: the human body usually responds to weight loss as a survival crisis, and works hard to replace the lost fat. Even obesity researchers are picking this up, y’all. Can we stop assuming that fatness is just a result of lazy overindulgence now?

Finally, the Village Voice has published a lengthy article on fat admirers. Really. Oh, it’s not perfect: there are comments from some of the interviewed FAs rife with ugly classism, some straight-up co-opting of GLBT activism, and a few beauty-fascist observations you’d expect from your standard cisgendered hetero dude. There is also a fair amount of emphasis on the suffering of fat-lady-admiring guys:

Keith Ferguson, a 24-year-old FA from Westchester (“We had two African-American kids in our schools and one fat girl”), wonders if he would have been treated better if he’d been gay. “The immediate reception from my friends was, ‘You’re a fetishistic freak, and I can’t believe I hang out with you.’ ” He confided in a friend, who then spilled it to their freshman class. “It’s almost like the same level of stigma that a homosexual would deal with. But in high school, there were two ‘out’ gay kids before I turned 16. People were like, ‘Ah-hahaha, you’re gay.’ They were maybe on the outskirts of the socially accepted circle, at the end of the day, but enough people liked them that it didn’t really matter. For me, I was actually ostracized.”

This article would have been improved if it’d taken a moment or two to actually identify the tension between these guys’ overall state of privilege and the way the women they find attractive are marginalized. It also would have been a stronger piece if it had offered more than a cursory glance at deconstructing cultural obesity stigma on the last page. As it is, most folks reading are unlikely to rethink their initial circus-sideshow interest. That said, I found it a fair effort at normalizing an attraction to a particular body type, something that is, after all, considered totally appropriate so long as the body type in question matches cultural beauty standards.

Got any interesting links I missed? Drop ’em in comments.


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