Saturday, October 27, 2012

Clinic X

There's a commercial that's been airing on TV frequently over the last week or so. It's for a weight-loss clinic that I'll call Clinic X.

The commercial shows a slim, good looking blonde woman, probably in her early thirties. Of course, it starts with the usual "before" picture and then switches to the new and improved version of the same woman, dancing sexily in a fetching cocktail dress.

The woman proceeds to tell us how Clinic X has saved her life, probably saved her marriage and quite likely saved her from dying from diseases that she does not have now, but could very well develop in the future. She almost sounds like she's crying, her voice practically breaking with emotion.

Wow.  This clinic doesn't beat around the bush. It uses every single stereotype in the book, preying on every fear: health, love, abandonment.

For fun, I googled the clinic. It's very expensive and there have been complaints about certain rather questionable practices.

How many people are going to be taken in this time?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stereotypes and the "Livingston Debate"

OK, the Internet is awash in posts and comments about Wisconsin news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, and her response to an e-mail from someone who can only be called a "concern troll".  I wanted to post the youtube video here but Blogger seems to be cutting off half the screen. Sorry, but you'll just have to click here.

Many bloggers who are far more influential than I am have already jumped into the fray. I highly suggest you read the excellent, incisive posts on this topic written by Michelle,  The Fat Nutritionist and Ragen at Dances With Fat.

But it's still better late than never for NewMe. So here are my two cents on the issue:

The author of the e-mail, Kenneth Krause--a buff, bulging muscled 40-something man--takes Livingston to task for being a poor role model, especially for young girls. How can a fat woman show herself on television? Think of the children! He chides her for her poor choice and bad habits. After all, being overweight is a choice and the result of bad habits...

Actually, Krause is right in the mainstream when he expresses these ideas. How many people out there--be they mean-spirited, self-loathing weight-loss bloggers who rejoice in demolishing those whose weight loss efforts they deride; or kind, well-meaning bloggers who are in the midst of or have lost the weight and are trying to help others do the same--send the same message loud and clear: you, as an individual, got yourself into this fat mess, and it is solely up to you and your actions to get yourself out.

If I were an alien who'd just arrived on Planet Earth and who looked to the Internet to find out why there are people of differing sizes in our world, I would learn that ALL fat people, without exception, eat massive quantities of junk food, watch TV all day long, take the car to travel across the street and eat until they feel sick. Moreover, I would also learn that ALL thin people are paragons of virtue, bike 30 miles a day, account for every morsel of food that passes their lips, never eat junk food and certainly, never, never overeat. I would also get the distinct impression that all fat people are walking health disasters (diabetes, arthritis, COPD, PCOS...) while all thin people live long, happy, healthy lives (unless they are hit by a car driven by a fat slob drinking a supersized sugary drink and eating a hamburger smothered in cheese, nestled between two doughnuts.

Sadly, the above description pretty much sums up the beliefs of many people on and off the Internet. A few days ago, for example, I was working with two colleagues, both of whom carry some "extra" weight. At the end of the day, I set off on foot with one of them. She lived close enough to walk home, while I just wanted to get in a few hundred extra steps before hopping on the bus home. As we were walking, my colleague (let's call her B) commented on something the other colleague (C) had mentioned during the day: that she (C) had recently taken up running and was currently in training for her second or third half-marathon. B was skeptical: how could C be running as much as she said she was and still be fat? In response, I suggested she look up famous exercise physiologist Dr. Steven Blair on the Internet. He's been running for decades and guess what? He's fat. For those new to my blog, Dr. Blair has done extensive research on fitness and has shown--with numerous studies to back him up--that an overweight active person is healthier than a thin, inactive person.

In the above example, my colleague was simply (and unconsciously) expressing yet another stereotype regarding fat people: they are liars. When a fat person says that she eats just like her older sister "who's thin as a beanpole and lazy to boot" while she is fat though active, she's obviously lying. When a fat person says that he eats reasonable portions of food and has never binged, he's lying. Fat people can never self-report: they always lie.

There's a lot more to be said about Jennifer Livingston, the politely vicious e-mail and her brave and clear response. Kenneth Krause, on the other hand, well...let's not say anything more about him. It might be somewhat unpleasant.

Just one more thing: I do know of someone who used to take the car to go across the street--he was slim all his life and died in his early 60s of cancer. And yes, I know, this is just "anecdata". ;)