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.


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