Tuesday, December 02, 2008

This is the way we legitimize fat prejudice

My local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, is really pretty good, especially for a small city paper. Like many small papers these days, it picks up a lot of stories from wire services. Today's post concerns one of those wire stories,which ran in the feature section as "10 simple things you can do today to improve your life."

Number 3 on the list is "Put one foot in front of the other." It's a plug for exercise, specifically for walking, which I am in favor of, and advocates getting a pedometer to measure your steps. We're all supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day. I'm good with that. But halfway through the item I came to this sentence:

Those in the obese range usually take between 4,600 and 6,000 steps a day, overweight people walk 6,000 to 7,000 steps a day, and those of normal weight tally 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

Where to begin: With the idea that anyone who's not overweight is "of normal weight"? (Since when is being underweight normal?) Or with the random declaration that obese people walk no more than 6,000 steps a day?

I've worn a pedometer, and I've typically taken between 7500 and 9,000 steps a day. I have to make a conscious effort to reach 10,000 steps a day, it's true, but according to this article, since my BMI is in the obese category, I should be more of a couch potato.

It's just another example of how silly these kinds of "health" stories can be. And as a member of the media myself, I really shouldn't get exercised (pun intended) about ridiculous things like this. But I do. Because every one of these stories underlines, subtly or overtly, our cultural attitudes and assumptions about fat people, and so leads to more fat prejudice and stereotyping.

And there's already plenty of that to go around.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wanted: Snappy comebacks

It's inevitable: Whenever I see people I haven't seen for a while, one or two of them are sure to say something like "You've lost weight! You look so good!" Not because I've lost tons of weight. Maybe I've lost 5 pounds, but I really don't know (and don't care) and haven't weighed myself in months. I think it's because I'm happy. Oh, and my hair is longer.

The point is, I wish I had something to say in this situation. Yesterday an acquaintance gushed on and on about my putative weight loss, and I said, "No, I really don't think I've lost a lot of weight." Her response: "I beg to differ!"

Excuse me? You're telling me about my body? I know she meant well, but it was tres frustrating. I wish I had some snappy (but not snarky) comeback to offer in this situation.

Any suggestions?