Saturday, May 12, 2007

Good food, bad food

Sound familiar? I've often wondered where the good food/bad food dichtomy originates. Why is it that carrot sticks carry with them an aura of smug virtue, while chocolate cake bears the stigma of sin?

Of course I know the answer: It's all about the calories, stupid. But there's got to be attitude behind those calories. And there is. Turns out reseachers from Yale and elsewhere did a study several years ago (which I just came across) looking at the stigma associated with obesity. Get this: They quizzed obesity specialists--doctors, researchers, psychologists--and discovered that even people who have devoted their lives to the subject associate "blameworthy behvioral characteristics" with obesity.

These are folks who understand the genetic and environmental factors implicated in obesity. Who know that fat people aren't fat because they watch TV and eat bon-bons all day.

Geez, if you can't trust these people to understand, who can you trust?

This sense of judgment extends beyond food to any part of our lives that our related to fat and overweight. We fatties are told that we bring all kinds of bad things on ourselves, from diabetes to lower pay to heart disease.

If your heart were, I don't know, a sewage pump (which in some ways isn't such a bad comparison), and it got clogged, would you feel a sense of moral failure? Or would you just call the plumber to have the pipes cleaned out? So why the strong sense of self-blame and guilt over being fat?

Stigma equals shame. Shame equals a sense of moral dichotomy, good and bad. People with anorexia take this good/bad food thing to obsessive extremes. But I bet most of us do it on some level.

Pay attention to your feelings about the next plate of food you sit down to. See if it's true for you. Then practice moral blindness when it comes to food. Repeat after me: There is no such thing as bad food, only badly cooked, badly prepared, or bad-tasting food.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Big Fat Bad Idea

I don't watch reality TV. Even if I did, I would not be tempted by this recent offering from TLC. The show reportedly follows a father-and-son team who perform bariatric surgery on "obese people who have opted to undergo weight-loss surgery in an attempt to regain their lives."

And here I thought obese people had lives, even without undergoing the risky-but-oh-so-profitable procedures performed by these butchers--I mean surgeons.

The producers would have you believe that this father and son are dedicated do-gooders out to make the lives of Fat People better by surgical mutilation, we know better.

We know, for instance, that nearly 40 percent of those who underwent such surgery last year had complications within 6 months, including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, reflux, abdominal hernia, leaking at the surgical site between stomach and intestine, and infections of one sort or another.

We know that 7 percent of those who had the surgery had to go back to the hospital within 6 months to treat complications of the surgery.

The producers of this incredibly offensive show describe the father and son as "passionate" people "who have dedicated their professional lives to raising awareness about obesity."

Raising awareness? Um, did we need our awareness raised on this issue? Do those of us whose BMI qualifies us as overweight or obese just not realize it? Is there anyone living in America--heck, in the world--who hasn't been inundated with anti-fat propaganda and prejudice?

Captain Kirk was wrong; fat is the final frontier. And this show is one big fat bad idea.