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Fatties Need Not Apply August 17, 2009

Posted by Jae in Fat, Stupid News.
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Wandering around Shakesville today, I found this gem of an article: The Way We Live Now: Fat Tax.

Just from the title, I knew that this was going to be good, but it really exceeded my expectations in a wow-this-makes-me-sick kind of way.  In summary, the article focuses on the Cleavland Clinic’s policy of not hiring smokers and espouses the virtues of similarly vilifying fat people to save money.  (By the way, all of the following emphasis is mine.)

Refusing to hire smokers may be more hard-nosed than the other parts of the program. But given the social marginalization of smoking, the policy is hardly shocking. All in all, the wellness initiative seems to be a feel-good story.

Actually, I do find it shocking because I believe that what someone does with their own time and with their own body is none of my business.  While I don’t smoke, and I certainly appreciate laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places, it never dawned on me that I should be able to penalize someone engaging in a legal behavior that I find unacceptable.  I don’t consider myself to be a libertarian, but the idea that employers should essentially be able to police the choices you make in your life really burns my cookies.

In order to survive in this society, everyone needs money which, for most people, means you need a job.   In the United States, we already have less vacation time than most other Western countries and we work some of the longest hours too, so we sacrifice a lot of time and life to our jobs.  If employers can start discriminating against job applicants for smoking, where will what we sacrifice end?  Couldn’t they refuse to hire people who have unprotected sex, because they may catch an STD and then they would miss work and cost money by using their health benefits (if they even have them)?  What about people who drink alcohol?  There are some health risks to that.  Or people who engage in risky hobbies?  Sure that mountain-biker might improve his cardiovascular health, but what happens if he falls and breaks a leg!?  Or hell, what about people who watch TV in the evenings instead of reading?  They could be learning more if they read a book instead of watching a reality show, and this could help them in their work.  Shouldn’t employers have some say in that too?

No, they shouldn’t and I’m sure it sounds ridiculous (to most people) for me to even suggest that.  But once you give an employer the right to govern one element of your private life, other restrictions are not going to be far behind.

That’s the case at the Cleveland Clinic.  Because the Clinic’s Chief Executive, Delos M. Cosgrove, not only loves their no-smokers-allowed policy, but would love to expand it if not for those pesky legal restrictions.  Can anyone guess to whom he would like to expand this policy.  Why, to fat people of course!

“Why is it unfair?” he asked. “Has anyone ever shown the law of conservation of matter doesn’t apply?” People’s weight is a reflection of how much they eat and how active they are. The country has grown fat because it’s consuming more calories and burning fewer. Our national weight problem brings huge costs, both medical and economic. Yet our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our antismoking efforts. “We should declare obesity a disease and say we’re going to help you get over it,” Cosgrove said.

Oh, I don’t know Dr. Cosgrove, maybe it’s unfair because a person’s body size is none of your fucking business.  Even if we discount the fact that there is a genetic component to body size, the idea that you should be able to govern the size of your employee’s asses is insane.  What would you do if you hired someone, who you felt was of an acceptable weight, who later gained weight?  Suspend them until they lost weight?  Fire them if they couldn’t or didn’t want to?

The debate over health care reform has so far revolved around how insurers, drug companies, doctors, nurses and government technocrats might be persuaded to change their behavior. And for the sake of the economy and the federal budget, they do need to change their behavior. But there has been far less discussion about how the rest of us might also change our behavior. It’s as if we have little responsibility for our own health. We instead outsource it to something called the health care system.

Oh yes!  Of course, that is one of the major problems of our health care system.  It isn’t that insurance companies are using every trick in the book to avoid paying for necessary treatments or that drug companies are doing everything they can to make a huge profit off of illness and suffering.  It’s that people just don’t care enough about their health not to be fat.  Because according to a study referenced on the left side of this very article, 9.1% of the annual health care costs in the United States are “obesity related.”  Yes, that’s right: less than 10% of our health care costs go towards treating these so-called obesity related problems, including heart disease and diabetes. If not for that ten percent of costs, everything would be a fucking field of flowers; everyone would have all the health care they need, and no one would ever die.

Let’s ignore the fact that the top risk factor for heart disease is increasing age and that increased age is also a risk factor for developing diabetesAnd that our population of people over age 65 tripled from 1990-2000 and has been growing ever since.  I’m sure that an increasing older population has nothing to do with the increase in the cost of treating heart disease and diabetes; it is all those lazy fatties who clench their teeth shut when presented with a vegetable.

Not to mention that even this article acknowledges that you probably aren’t paying the costs of your fat coworkers health care:

Cosgrove mentioned to me an idea that some economists favor: charging higher health-insurance premiums to anyone with a certain body-mass index. Harsh? Yes. Fair? You can see the argument. And yet it turns out that the obese already do pay something resembling their fair share of medical costs, albeit in an indirect way. Overweight workers are paid less than similarly qualified, thinner colleagues, according to research by Jay Bhattacharya and M. Kate Bundorf of Stanford. The cause isn’t entirely clear. But the size of the wage difference is roughly similar to the size of the difference in their medical costs.

Certainly one of the causes is fairly clear to anyone with two brain cells to rub together: fat hatred.  Fat people are repeatedly categorized as being lazier, sloppier, and dumber than thin people, and it is often claimed that they cost the healthcare system more money than thin people.  Considering the widespread nature of these beleifs, are we really that suprised that employers are paying fat workers less than their thin colleagues?

But that isn’t enough for people like Cosgrove.  In spite of this study, he still wants to find a way to charge fat people more for their insurance (if he can’t avoid hiring them all together); if they are already paying their fair share do to the decrease in pay (and this assumes that the alleged increased costs of obesity are true, though as I showed above, that is also complicated), why should they also be penalized with higher health insurance premiums?

Cosgrove’s would-be approach may have its problems. The obvious one is its severity. The more important one is probably its narrowness: not even one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals can do much to reduce obesity. The government, however, can. And that is the great virtue of Cosgrove’s idea. He is acknowledging that any effort to attack obesity will inevitably involve making value judgments and even limiting people’s choices. Most of the time, the government has no business doing such things. But there is really no other way to cure an epidemic.

Control, that’s why.  The end of this article brings me right back to my original point.  It isn’t about increased costs or keeping people healthy; this is just one more thing that those in power would like to control.  If they can keep us all worried about not being able to find a job because we are fat, than we won’t dare to worry about being overworked and undercompensated.  We won’t speak up about a stressful work environment or a lack of vacation time.  We will be too busy worrying about keeping ourselves acceptable enough to remain employed!  Someone will decide for us what is important in our lives and what we are entitled to have, and if we don’t agree, well…that will just have to be too bad.

People worry that a single-payer healthcare system would be a step on the road to the government dictating what sort of treatment we would get, punishing those they deemed unacceptable, well as you can see, that’s already possible.  When everything is about profit and cost, those things that supposedly cost the most are going to be the first things people try to cut down.  This is why we need to move towards a system that is based around caring for people, not making money by denying those who need help.


Carnie Wilson: I Will Be Thin Again! March 19, 2008

Posted by Jae in Stupid News.
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Carnie Wilson’s is the first weight loss surgery I can really remember hearing about. I was about fourteen when she had it and knee deep in self-hatred. I remember feeling so jealous that she had the chance to do something that was “guaranteed” to work when I was stuck trying to skip meals without my parents noticing.

But, unsurprisingly, that guarantee wasn’t worth all that much and now Ms. Wilson has put some weight back on and she recently sat down with OK Magazine to produce one of the most disturbing interviews I’ve read in awhile.

Some highlights…

OK: How are you feeling?

Carnie: I’ve hit rock bottom with my weight. Everyone can see that I’m bigger, but I cannot hibernate. I’ve never lied or been dishonest about what’s going on in my life. Even all these years later, having had such a great weight-loss story, being back in this place is so familiar. And it hurts. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It doesn’t feel good when you have to struggle to get your pants on.

(Emphasis mine.)

I agree, it doesn’t, but, not to have a state-the-obvious contest or anything, might she feel better right away if she bought pants that fit instead of torturing herself trying to squeeze into her old ones?

OK: How did you react to the recent pictures of yourself on celebrity Web site TMZ.com?

Carnie: I actually thought my face looked pretty. Sometimes I get mad and think, “Why do the paparazzi follow me?” And then I thought, “I don’t feel mad. I feel determined.” Somebody is struggling just the way I am. They’ve gained some weight back; they’re reverting to some old habits. They need a catalyst. Why do I have to be scrutinized for every pound? The truth is, I just want to be a good mom. I want to be healthy and not revert to food when I feel anxiety.

(Again, emphasis mine.)

Carnie asks an excellent question here: Why should she be scrutinized for every pound? Why should anyone? There seems to be a glimmer of understanding here that she is not defined by her weight, but at the same time she thinks that the pressure to be thin will help her to lose weight. Guess she hasn’t seen the news recently.

OK: What was your biggest diet downfall before gastric bypass surgery?

Carnie: Doughnuts. You don’t get to 300 pounds by eating diet pie. Ice cream. I would go through McDonalds drive-throughs and have a Big Mac, Super Size fries, a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets, a pie and a shake. That would be one meal for me — horrid! Now, if I start my morning out with a piece of toast, I’m doomed for the day. It’s like, give me carbs! Surgery or no surgery, I’ve gotten to know who I am with food and how my body reacts.

If I had to highlight something there, it would have been the whole quote. It included every, single, what-fat-people-eat stereotype you can think of from doughnuts to consuming half the items on the McDonald’s value menu in one sitting, and obviously she paints this kind of behavior in a negative light. However, eating a piece of toast? Also bad! No eating at all! That solves everything! *rolls eyes*

OK: What was life like after the surgery?

Carnie: In 2003, I was drinking heavily. Maybe I couldn’t handle feeling that great. I remember driving down Coldwater Canyon [in California] and thinking I could just turn this wheel and drive right off a cliff. In 2004, I reached a bad low and stopped drinking cold turkey. Thirteen days before I got pregnant, I got sober.

She felt so good, she started binge-drinking and thinking about suicide? It’s a good thing I didn’t actually try to get this surgery when I was fourteen; I don’t think I could’ve handled being that happy.

OK: Any regrets about having the gastric bypass?
Carnie: No, it was the best thing I ever did. If I didn’t have the surgery, I’d probably be dead My liver was enlarged; it was toxic. I had sleep apnea — I was waking up choking 10 times a night. My cholesterol and blood pressure were high. I was pre-diabetic and had circulation problems, slipped disks in my back, acne and chronic headaches. The surgery taught me to be accountable for what I put in my mouth. The truth is that the weight loss happened so fast that I couldn’t absorb it. Everyone was watching and there was so much pressure.

Because teh fat, unlike binge-drinking, makes your liver toxic. Not to mention that all the research on the subject says that fat is the most deadly thing there is. And it causes acne! And headaches!

And finally…

OK: Have you thought about just accepting yourself as a plus-sized woman?

Carnie: I don’t think I’m going to be healthy at this weight for long. I feel those extra 50 pounds. Plus, I’ve got a closet full of clothes that are size 8 that I would like to get back into again.

Obviously the answer to that question is no, but I especially like how she doesn’t address it directly. To me, lusting after a closet full of size-eights doesn’t sound as healthy as embracing the size sixteen body she already has, but who am I kidding? That’s crazy talk.

Life Without a Man: Worthless. February 11, 2008

Posted by Jae in Hearts & Butterflies & Cupcakes, Stupid News.
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Every now and then, I wonder if I should start dating. In my life I’ve had a few romantic entanglements, but certainly nothing like you’d see in the movies…unless the movies you go to feature mostly awkward twosomes who end their dates with a handshake, and I enjoy the tingly feeling that comes along with a crush and the shameless flirting and the blushing like a twelve-year-old, but for a multitude of reasons relationships and I remain mostly at odds. Sure, I get a little lonely every now and then. I browse dating sites or chit-chat with the cute, curly-haired guy who works in the building next door, and I wonder if I’m not missing out on something.

Because honestly, I spent most of my teenage years obsessing over the idea of a Boyfriend, someone who would swoop into my life and erase my own personal drama and make me feel normal. He would not just provide love and support, but he’d fix all my problems: I would not only be comfortable with my body, but once he was around it would transform into the kind of body I fantasized about. He would make me confident and out-going. He would make it so I never had another sad, empty moment so long as I lived.

And then I grew up. I realized that a partner is not the magic cure-all for life’s miseries. It’s someone to share your life with, the miseries and the joys, the movies and the concerts, the take-out and the funny stories. It’s someone to take out the garbage because they know you hate doing it. It’s someone to run out and get you Nyquil when you’ve got the flu. It’s someone who is going to forgive you for the nasty, sarcastic things you say when you’re fighting. It’s someone who is going to expect the same in return from you. It’s someone who you actually won’t mind returning the favor for. It something pretty special to find that person, and something that seems worth waiting for.

Apparently though, according to Lori Gottlieb, I’ve got it wrong again. For those of you playing the home game who can’t stomach the idea of finishing the article I’ll sum it up for you: Ladies, especially those over 30 (but you gals in your 20’s should probably pay attention too), settle and settle now. Find the nearest man you can and marry him, even if he bores you (because married people don’t talk anyway) or he repulses you (because we all know unless the little woman is ovulating, there is no sex inside marriage) or you suspect he’s gay, because if you don’t you will die old and alone, and you’ll be sorry. And if you don’t already know that you’ll be sorry you are in denial or a great big Pinocchio.

When I read this my head nearly exploded, not just because it’s utter bullshit, but because it is utter bullshit that could seriously push a gal on the brink over the edge*. Like I said, I’m single and while I don’t love it, I don’t hate it either. I am genuinely happy. I have great friends and a great family. I love my apartment, especially now that the decorating thing is finally coming together. I have a job that well…that’s probably the one area marked “needs improvement,” but even at that, it isn’t a bad situation; I’ve got great friends there and it leaves me with a lot of free-time. For the first time in my life, I actually working on not hating the holy hell out of my body, so sometimes I even feel a little confident. And even when I don’t, I’m finally not a neurotic teenager, so I’ve learned how to handle it. I wouldn’t trade all this for a boyfriend, capital B or otherwise.

But a couple of years ago I didn’t think any of this was possible if I didn’t have a steady Friday night date, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. In fact, a former friend of mine has spent the past four years chasing after a guy who was a few grand gestures and not much else because she doesn’t want to be alone, and she’s been nothing but miserable the entire time. She’s tried settling down with other guys, something which I imagine Gottlieb would encourage her to try, but it never lasts because she still feels empty. The hole that’s inside her, that’s inside so many people, will never be filled by another human being. The only prayer anyone ever has of filling it is to do it themselves.

That’s what I’m trying to do, and so far it’s working a lot better than any half-hearted relationship. I’m exploring my hobbies. I’m having fun nights out with friends. I’m enjoying sleeping in the middle of the bed and not sharing the covers. I’m doing all my own home improvement and feeling like a kick-ass woman. In short, I’m living my life. And if that special someone wanders in…fantastic. But if not, I probably will be too busy planning a trip with my best friend to notice.

*Nevermind the fact that this Gottlieb seems oblivious to the fact that there are a great many women out there who never, ever want children; that’s an insulting assumption for another post. I suppose she would say that they, like women who claim not to care about being married, are in denial.