Archive for the 'UK' Category

Fat v Obese

File this under ‘I’m So Involved In Fat Acceptance That I Forget How Daft The Rest Of The World Is’.

Anne Milton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat British government, stated that health care workers should use the word ‘fat’ rather than ‘obese’ in order to encourage people to lose weight. Apparently, people distance themselves from the term ‘obese’ whereas labeling people as ‘fat’ would encourage “personal responsibility”. Professor Steve Field, of the Royal College of GPs agreed with the statement, saying “The term obese medicalises the state … It makes it a third person issue. We need to sometimes be more brutal and honest.”

The National Obesity Forum, however, criticised Ms Milton’s views. Spokesperson Tam Fry stated, “Being obese is an internationally accepted medical definition where one’s weight is so extreme that there is a risk of comorbidity of stroke, diabetes type two [and] heart disease. Obesity is a wake-up call to do something about weight. It’s not just being fat.”

There is so much facepalm in this story but I will distill it into five main points:

1. Fat Acceptance 101: Health is not determined by weight.

While fat is correlated with diseases such as Type II diabetes and heart disease, studies have not shown that fat actually causes these conditions. Not to mention it’s pointless to encourage weight loss in patients as diets don’t work. Of course doctors should be encouraging healthy lifestyles in their patients, but they should not be framing this discussion around weight.

2. Shame doesn’t help anyone.

If shame helped people lose weight, there wouldn’t be a single fat person in the Western world.

3. We don’t need to give health care professionals permission to act like arseholes

According to Ms Milton, too many National Health Service staff were reluctant to use the term ‘fat’ for fear of offending their patients. I doubt this, as research has shown anti-fat bias in health care professionals (see here and here), Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity explicitly states that “Weight Bias is common in health care settings” and First, Do No Harm is filled with horror stories of the poor treatment fat patients have experienced from health care professionals.

Though Ms Milton was speaking in a personal capacity, her position in the British government means that her words can be taken as institutional permission for doctors to disrespect their patients.

4. Fat people know they are fat

Seriously.

5. ‘Fat’ should be used instead of ‘obese’

I actually agree with Anne Milton on the topic of fat v obese, but not for the reasons she listed. I think ‘overweight’, ‘underweight’ and ‘obese’ are unnecessary terms that should be eradicated because the body mass index is a flawed concept.

‘Fat’ has become a pejorative term and now has so many negative attributes connected to it – lazy, gluttonous, smelly, inferior, unattractive – when it is just an adjective. I think we should be using it more often because only then can it become normalised. The word ‘fat’ need not be “brutal”. It certainly shouldn’t be a trigger for so-called “personal responsibility”. It’s just three little letters that tell you as much about me as my biracial blood, my short-sightedness and my curly hair.

Sources: The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, News.com.au

Fatshion and The Punch

A post by my fellow antipodean fat blogger, RandomQuorum, directed to me to this article on The Punch, ‘Fatshionistas are hip, but can they fit into the dress?‘ by Nedahl Stelio. The Punch (mmmm punch) is an Australian opinion site, owned by News Limited. Nedahl Stelio is a former deputy editor of Cosmopolitan and former editor of Cleo.

As RandomQuorum notes, this article is kind of a big deal. Stelio writes about New York’s Full-Figured Fashion Week, Beth Ditto’s line for Evans, and makes reference to the awesome Daily Beast article on our fabulous fatshionistas. Plus-size fashion is not a subject often covered by Down Under mainstream news outlets, and it’s truly amazing that Stelio did not feel compelled to note that all fatty fat fatties are riddled with disease and will die soon, if not sooner. (Predictably, the reader comments do. Australians are horrendously fat-phobic and the comments on fat-related news stories can be vitriolic.) So this is sort of a win for us. w00t.

But this is also lazy reporting. The article was published on 9 July – a good 2 weeks after FFFWeek – and yet Stelio writes as if the event has not yet been held. She also fails to mention the aaaaaaaawesome news that FFFWeek is looking into bringing their event to Australia.

In fact, Stelio completely bypasses anything and everything to do with Australian plus-size fashion. FFFWeek was in New York. Beth Ditto’s line has been released in the UK. The Daily Beast and Manolo for the Big Girl are US-based sites. No mention of the barren wasteland that is plus-size shopping in Oz. No voxpops from fat Australian women who have to navigate a difficult fashion landscape. No praise heaped upon the few plus size designers we do have. No pressure on the rest of our designers and retailers to lift their game and clothe the plus sized. This strikes me as a very curious decision for an Australian fashion writer on an Australian website.

Worse still, every quote that’s in Stelio’s article I have read before. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not naïve enough to believe that every journalist has engaged in hardcore primary research for every article they have ever written. But she’s written about things that don’t really affect Australian fatties (unless they’re willing to brave the weakness of the Aussie dollar and fork out AUS$15+ on shipping for Beth’s line) and she’s done a few Google searches for her material. Seriously?

I wanted to be excited by this article, Nedahl, but you have got to give me something to work with. Next time, drop me a line and I’ll give you all the Aussie Fatosphere voxpops you need! /shameless plug


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