Short Cuts: The good, the bad, and the to-be-determined

By | August 18, 2011

I know, it’s like all I am doing lately is quick little article-debunkings. Soon, my pets, I will have time for blogging again. Like roughly two weeks from now. Ahem.

Let’s start with the bad. Today’s Boston Globe has an article about trying to tell our kids how fat they are. And how it’s, like, hard. For one, the parent in question is often the mom, who, being female and human, usually has her own raft of body issues, many of which she has probably modeled for her kid. That’s what we call a vicious cycle, friends. Mom inherits emotional issues with body size and food and eating from her mom, then passes same on to her own kids.

…When her child started gaining weight in high school, [Agnes] Mastropietro was torn between telling Michelle to put down the chips and keeping quiet for fear of hurting her or triggering an eating disorder.


In her case, Mastropietro said that when she did suggest that her daughter stop eating high-calorie food, her teenager played “the sensitive card’’ and started crying. “She’d say, ‘You’re supposed to love me the way I am.’ ’’

The sensitive card.

The sensitive card.

I daresay this reaction sounds a little dismissive. As though the teen in question is being intentionally manipulative by daring to cry and to state that a parent — A PARENT — should love their child no matter what that child looks like. Unfortunately, the teenager is in the right here, and that’s not something you’ll hear me say very often.

There is also a Token Asshole, because you need one in such articles to deliver the Hard Truth, when everyone is busy wringing their hands over their child’s stupid dumb feelings.

Not everyone agrees with the sensitive approach. Why pussy-foot around, asks John Mayer, a clinical psychologist in Chicago, and author of [book I refuse to promote on my blog]. “Would you be ‘delicate’ to insist that your child needs to take chemotherapy for a suspected cancer??’’ he wrote in an e-mail. “NO, as a responsible parent you would say: ‘This is what you are doing to save your life.’ Why do we treat obesity and weight control differently when so many more kids suffer from this illness than they do cancer?? Let’s stop the rhetoric and take action as parents.’’

Fat is exactly like cancer! I am dying to see the research behind this. I hope his paper is published soon. Mayer goes on in a similar asshole vein, but I’m going to stop him there. I especially like his emphatic use of multiple question marks, denoting, I presume, indignation. That’s what I like to see in a psychologist! Fuck your feelings, you soft pathetic little shit! YOU WILL TAKE YOUR CHEMO AND KEEP YOUR COMPLAINTS TO YOURSELF!

There is some more thoughtful advice offered, but apparently that’s boring:

The advice from most experts boils down to this: Work to create a healthy lifestyle for the entire family and don’t focus on the heavier child and calories; don’t label foods as “bad,’’ as that can make them more appealing or lead to eating issues later in life; don’t privately or publicly shame a child by yelling at him to stop eating cake at a party; build exercise into the family’s routine.

Agnes’ crying, don’t-you-love-me daughter wound up having gastric bypass surgery, and now she polices her mom’s cake consumption. So we get a miserable, depressing ending to this article as well.

On to the better: CNN has an article about two new studies published on Monday that basically suggest we ditch the BMI as a reliable indicator of health.

…[D]octors have known for years that obesity doesn’t affect all people the same way. An obese person could lead a healthy life while another person with the same body mass index, or BMI, could have severe medical problems.

Two studies published Monday suggest reframing the way medical practitioners look at overweight and obese patients. The studies question the notion that BMI and weight determine health — even when someone is severely obese.

GET RIGHT OUT. Both studies asked whether the BMI could predict mortality, and both found that it could not. One study used a different system to predict health problems, one based on — brace yourselves — the presence of actual problems, instead of the hazy possibility of problems that may or may not occur somewhere down the road. So, if you have hypertension? Your mortality is higher. Funnily enough, this is true WHETHER YOU ARE FAT OR NOT. Says one researcher of the obese folks studied:

They “are at no greater risk of dying than normal weight individuals,” said Kuk, the Toronto professor. “It challenges the notion all obese individuals need to lose weight.”

So, smarty-pants scientists, why are some fat people healthy and some not?

Genetics could play a role. A person’s chances of getting diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis with weight gain are stronger if he or she has parents or grandparents who also had the conditions.


Another factor is the quality of diet and level of fitness. These factors lower a person’s risks even though his or her weight may qualify as obese. But other factors remain unclear.

Quick, somebody call Jess Weiner! She must be told!

Rather than focus on weight, Sharma suggests checking for chronic disease risk such as blood pressure and other factors in obese patients.

HOLD UP there, Dr. Sharma. Are you suggesting that doctors should monitor their fat patients’ health by…. monitoring their fat patients’ health? Maybe we should all sit down and talk this over rationally.

“The key message is I can’t tell you how healthy someone is if you tell me height or weight on a scale,” said Sharma, chair for obesity research and management at the University of Alberta. “I have to do additional tests for other health problems.”

Of course it ends on a “but no doctors will ever do this because it’s bullshit and also it’s waaaay easier to just assume my fat patients are at death’s door than do any real critical thinking about their health even though it’s what I get paid LOTS and LOTS of money to do” note. But still! The rest of it was good! Wasn’t it?

Finally: TLC is starting a new reality show on August 30 called Big Sexy. I’m pretty sure we all heard about this back when they were casting. I’ve not watched the trailer yet, but I am hoping for something recap-worthy. Do you guys miss my recaps? I know I do.

Links, links, I want your links! Comment with them please.


Rubyfruit on August 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm.

…There is something that makes me inwardly cringe when I hear/see people speak of being fat as an illness unto itself. It’s on the tip of my tongue as to why that is…Ah. It’s because when an illness is painted as the person’s fault, that person becomes a target, and fatness, when seen as an illness instead of something that just happens, and therefore has a “cause”, it becomes acceptable to target fat people, specifically, fat children for things that would be considered unconscionable if done to anyone else ever.

Agnes’ crying, don’t-you-love-me daughter wound up having gastric bypass surgery, and now she polices her mom’s cake consumption.

Oh, that’s just depressing. And illustrates what I’m talking about.


Gigi on October 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm.

I have always been fat. It was very hard for me as a child. When I was in fourth grade my mother enrolled us in something called Shape Up which was a program for fat parents and their children. I don’t remember much of it only that it didn’t stick.

Last year my mom talked me into going down the gastric bypass road. I was supposed to get it done this past winter but for some reason my heart wasn’t into documenting everything I at fore a year. I ended up not getting it.
I know I need to exercise more and try to become healthier because I do have some health problems but I also know I’m very happy. I also suspect I would have some of my health problems even if I was skinny. I’m just to afraid of my mother, grandmother and doctors to say so.

Thank you for this blog I just started reading it after seeing everything you’ve done at xoJane which I discovered today and have spent most of the night reading and squeeing about to all my friends.

You have no idea how much this post in particular means to me.



AlisonY on August 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm.

I’m pretty neutral on whether or not that upcoming TLC show will be full of EPIC or full of FAIL or the combination of both (Epic Fail! Did you see what I just did there?!) Although I got to say that the photo of the cast (the clothes! the girls! So pretty!) and the concept itself is pretty promising….

Also, the Boston Globe can suck it.


Christine on August 19, 2011 at 9:58 am.

Master googler and procrastinator that I am, it would seem that the Matropietros are really into whatever this weightloss industry will sell them: UGH. And frankly, after dad’s failed gastric bypass, why would they think that the daughter’s or the mother’s upcoming bypass surgeries would “fix” them.

Just the other day, yesterday? maybe? I saw something in passing on the Today show about more and more teens opting for gastric bypass and/or lapband procedures. Because that’s what a teen needs, not to work at whatever emotional issues that they might be having, but having disdain and shame placed on them for their weight. I’m all about signing up for a fatty commune. Fats, and FA allies only. Brink on the fatkinis.


drst on August 19, 2011 at 10:10 am.

I notice the CNN article goes to a bariatric surgeon for rebuttal. Because that guy is totally unbiased, amirite? It’s not like he’s raking in money performing invasive surgery on healthy digestive systems or anything! *eyeroll*


ToeDipping on August 19, 2011 at 10:41 am.

I miss your recaps!


Leighjen on August 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm.

I like how the comment is “Would you be ‘delicate’ to insist that your child needs to take chemotherapy for a suspected cancer??’’

Suspected cancer? Really?

You know what? If the doctor can’t tell me if it is cancer or not, why would I let them poison my kid on a guess?


Carolyn on August 21, 2011 at 12:49 am.

Leighjen! PREEMPTIVE CANCER TREATMENT FOR EVERYONE!!!!! Why wait until you actually have a problem? We should be amputating shit and blasting it with radiation before those pathetic little fat loser cells of yours have the chance to become a problem!!

I think that’s just the best Freudian slip ever . . . suspected cancer! bwahahha! I can’t type that with enough guffaw to satisfy me.


ako on August 23, 2011 at 1:29 am.

I had suspected cancer once. You know what the doctors did? They removed a small portion of cells, tested it, and determined it wasn’t cancer at all.

Apparently, what they were supposed to do was go “You may or may not have cancer now, but obviously you are doomed to have it! Take your fucking chemo right now!” Because then I could have been sick, bald, and anemic, and enjoyed the benefits of knowing my doctor was big on GETTING TOUGH on disease!


Fat Overactor on August 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm.

I would LOVE another round of Lesley recaps! When I first saw the trailer for this on OCD*…er, I mean TLC I said to myself , “I hope Lesley knows about this and has her recap pen handy!”

*Look at ALL of the shows in their lineup. I LOVE that Extreme Couponers is on before Hoarders:Buried Alive! It’s the circle of life!


kbryna on August 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm.

“it’s the circle of life” – made me laugh so hard I snorted, repeatedly.


Androgynoussissygirl on August 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm.

Does anyone else get a kick out of the asshole’s name being John Mayer?


Awlbiste on August 20, 2011 at 1:13 am.

That’s the first thing I thought!


SamanthaGT on August 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm.

Let me tell you: I am fat and I have cancer. The two are NOTHING alike. And I am offended by the implication that they are.


Eva on September 1, 2011 at 2:27 am.

Best of luck with your health.


Charlotte on August 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm.

I get so mad when obesity is called a disease or a disorder…basically when it’s classified as something that’s wrong with you, epecially because I have a legitimate mental health issue. I don’t go around telling people “I have obesity” or “I’m suffering from obesity.” I’m more likely to say “I’m suffering from the effects of living in a fat hating culture.”


CTJen on August 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm.

OMG more Lesley recaps YES PLEASE. Also, doctors not being able to tell if I’m healthy or not based on my apparent fatness?! REVOLUTIONARY.


Awlbiste on August 20, 2011 at 1:10 am.

Do want Big Sexy recaps. I don’t even want to watch the show, I just want the recaps.

I’d also like to add that this did not come up in my feed reader, on the off-chance that someone hasn’t mentioned it to you yet. For the first time ever, Facebook told me something useful.


fattery on August 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm.

Haha, I just looked up Big Sexy and was thinking the same thing–that it doesn’t really seem like something I’d want to watch (except maybe I could mute it and just have beautiful fat ladies to watch while I do other things), but I could go for some witty recaps.


Carolyn on August 21, 2011 at 12:52 am.

“Fuck your feelings, you soft pathetic little shit! YOU WILL TAKE YOUR CHEMO AND KEEP YOUR COMPLAINTS TO YOURSELF!”

I am working toward my degree in psychology 🙂 I plan on making this into a t-shirt as my free gift to all clients. I will present it with an Arnold accent and yell “suck it up fatty-fatterson!”


AcceptanceWoman on August 21, 2011 at 10:18 am.

I’ll channel my six-year-old and say “Re-Caps! Re-Caps! Re-Caps!”


RedheadedVixen on August 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm.

MTV unveils plus-sized reality star! What say you to this?


vep002 on August 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm.

Her hair is gorgeous!


Jackie on August 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm.

I do miss your recaps! But, I miss HUGE more. Especially during the summer when I know it *should* be on. I mean what is Alistair up to this summer?
Damn it.


kbryna on August 31, 2011 at 12:24 pm.

YES. I miss “Huge” with a vengeance. I want to know how Alistair is doing. And Piznarski. And Trent. And all the rest of those adorable Camp Victory kids.


Alexa on August 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm.

Has even one single child ever actually died from ‘obesity’?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Talk about a ridiculous comparison.

Or do they now always label the cause of death as ‘obesity’ for fat people, with the only proof being required is that they’re, you know, fat? Even if they were run over by a train?


firefey on August 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm.

well OF COURSE they would list obesity as the cause of death in that case. becuase obviously they couldn’t get out of the way of the train. because of their fat. because fat people can’t run. right?

but all snark asside, i don’t know if obesity is listed as a cause of death or if it’s listed as a co-morbidity factor. like “subject A died of cartiac arrest and had a BMI of 34 which likely caused cardiac arrest.” if that’s the case, total fail.


silentbeep on August 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm.

Recaps! Please!


Heather on August 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm.

Yes please recaps! I might even be inspired to TiVo the show with your recaps to look forward to. Also Fattery I love your idea of just having the show on muted, like animated Fatspiration wallpaper.
Jackie, I miss Huge too… I’ve been watching reruns of Freaks and Geeks this summer and it makes me think of Huge… Both in the “wow I wish there were more episodes of this show and I can’t believe these characters just abruptly ceased to exist because of some network executive decision” category.


Laurah on August 27, 2011 at 8:43 am.


I want to tape this article to the head RN at my crappy HMO. She is personally irritated by my low blood pressure and cholesterol.


Kathy G. on August 29, 2011 at 10:26 am.

Leslie — first off, hell to the yeah would I love recaps! You’re a wonderful writer and your recaps have always been razor-sharp insightful and massively entertaining.

And, like RedheadedVixen, I, too, would like to hear your thoughts about the new MTV reality show about a young woman who is plus size. IIRC, she’s OMG deathfatz, so that show could prove especially interesting — either in a good way or in a crappy way.

One more thing: remember Meghan Tonjes, the singer you wrote about earlier this year? In the past she’s been active in size acceptance work, and apparently she still is. But as of late, she’s also been dieting and apparently is a paid flack for a particular diet. She talks about it at the end of her latest video:

I’d be interested in hearing your take on that as well.


polly on August 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm.

I just discovered your blog. You are amazing, I absolutely love your writing style and, last but not least, I agree wholeheartedly with body positivity.
Now I just need to learn how to fix all the mess that years and years of body policing have created in my brain. It’s shameful how hard it is for a woman not to hate herself in this day and age.


Katrina on August 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm.

Lesley, I’ve been stalking your blog for a while, and I love all your article “de-bunkings,” re-caps, and general musings. I love that you force (encourage would maybe be better) your readers to think critically.

The thing that pulled me out of lurkdom, though, was coming across this awful excuse for a children’s book. I figured you could have a field day with it.

Hope I linked that right.

While Maggie’s “diet” basically equates to healthy eating and exercise (nothing particularly heinous there), what gets to me is that it sets up a direct cause and effect: Maggie gets skinny—> Maggie gets popular! The kicker is that though the main character is 14, the reading level is for 4-8 year olds.



Katrina on August 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm.

Sorry. Totally goofed the link. 🙁


a.w. on September 4, 2011 at 4:45 pm.

re: “The Big Sexy”: I am so damn tired of everyone in the world emphasizing WOMEN as sexy but not sexual (or conflating the two, which is just as annoying) and STRAIGHT MEN as sexual but under no compulsion to be sexy (or generally considered “attractive” no matter what). GAY/BI MEN or drag queens are the only entities who are portrayed and permitted to be both, while gay/bi women, trans men, and trans women (particularly trans dykes) are generally invisible. What this means is the “sexiness” of women can be the only thing discussed about them, while their actual SEXUALITY (as in their ability to have actual orgasms) is ignored (although they are always assumed to be heterosexual unless they have a crew cut and exclusively wear men’s suits, not that there’s anything wrong with crew cuts/suits although they’re not my taste). This also means that a woman’s hobbies, interests, brains is equally ignored…all that matters is that they look “hot” TO MEN and so that other women can’t pick them apart to little shreds. There needs to be more shows that emphasize women’s hobbies and abilities, and to make the scales a little more balanced, encourage more straight men to care about their own aesthetics so that THEY can look “sexy”. If most women are heterosexual, why do they spend so little time focusing on men’s appearances and so much time analyzing women’s “sexiness”? All this show will do is say, “now fat women can be picked apart and put back together (at the expense of other aspects of their being, such as intelligence, talents, hobbies, and ability to enjoy orgasms rather than focus on looking hot so Mr. Man can have better orgasms) to better appeal to straight men who could care less about their own aesthetics just like thin women!” And as a non sequitur, if I hear one more straight female refer to her female friends as “girlfriends”, I’m going to scream. This makes all queer women and their lovers invisible. And NO, why should queer girls have to use the word “partner” to describe someone they’re casually dating?


Lori on September 9, 2011 at 5:22 am.

I very much enjoyed your post, seriously lifted me out of the doldrums who would have thought fat is not a death sentence! The psychologist needs a kick in the face, tied to a chair and force fed mars bars until he can see the other side of the argument (I specifically chose mars bars as they are high in sugar (well glucose actually) so must be evil). I have been fat my whole life and didn’t develop health problems until an explosion in a lab where I worked but the Dr’s response was lose weight, it will help. As a scientist I know that there is no biochemical byproduct of the burning of fat that would tackle the bacteria I was exposed to, when I let the Dr know this he just gave me one of those “punch me in the face I am so smug and patronising whilst your totally deluded about your weight” looks


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