Thursday, January 24, 2008

Big Buts, Part Six: The Godwin Diet

"But you don't see fat people in famines or concentration camps!"

Oh no, you didn't! You didn't! Surely you're not invoking the most horrific events in human history as justification for the persecution of fat people?

Oh, you are? Well then, I guess I'll tackle that one, but just remember that this was YOUR idea, not mine.

The shameful and sick use of this "but" is one that really sets my teeth on edge. People who were forcibly starved, many or most starved to death, did in fact use their fat reserves in order to prolong their lives. They lost fat tissue, muscle mass, and bone density. Their organs went into failure. The human body has evolved strategies for surviving food shortages for a period of time, but that does not mean such strategies can be used indefinitely. A more efficient body still has finite resources, even if they are used at a slower rate than a body with a fast metabolism.

People's bodies became emaciated when they went long periods of time without eating anything. It is true that this happens. However, that does not mean that it was a good thing for them to become emaciated. It does not mean that it is a good idea to induce famine when food is abundant. Yes, a fat person will become less fat when put on a starvation diet, but why should they have to endure that? Famine is a horror. It is suffering. It is damaging to the body and mind. Why do you think someone should voluntarily undergo that? Maybe because you're just being a smartass, and trying to prove the point that "dieting works"?

Sure, starving the human body results in fat reserves being utilized. But once that period of starving is over, the body wants to rebuild those reserves, plus some extra. So, in order to remain thin, the person who has lost a lot of weight will have to endure the pain and suffering of starvation for his or her entire life. And for what reason? Health? Would you rather live a shorter life feeling good, or live longer in misery? Appearance? Why should I have to suffer for the sake of other people's misguided aesthetics?

Another thing: Surely you don't think that emaciated famine victims are healthy? There is a great deal of damage done to them by starvation, and that same damage can be seen in people who deliberately eat very low calorie diets, including cognitive problems, infertility, and heart damage. Yes, a fat person with a slow metabolism, thyroid disease, and PCOS might lose weight if they reduce their intake to a ridiculously low amount, but that doesn't mean it's healthy for them to do so, or that it will improve their quality of life enough to offset the side effects of very low calorie diets.

Finally, I want to ask a very simple question: Which famine and Holocaust victims do YOU think were more likely to survive? The thin ones, or the fat ones? And, of those who survived and were able to build a stable life with an adequate food supply, how many of them do you think stayed emaciated?

Just stop using victimized people as an excuse to hate fat people. It's disrespectful, disgusting, and disingenuous. Enough already.


Alexandra Erin said...

Do you have the ability to make a "big buts" label for these posts, so they're easier to find when somebody's in the mood to read them all?

RioIriri said...

I will place a tag on each of them right away! Thank you for the suggestion!

Eve said...

Thanks for the great post! I've been thinking about this topic lately too. What I thought about was: in a population where everyone gets enough to eat, some are going to be fat. If everyone doesn't get enough to eat over a long period of time, they will all become thin and suffer from malnutrition. The first population is the healthy one, not the second.

The existence of fat people can therefore be seen as evidence of a healthy population, not an unhealthy one.

I know that's simplistic, and some well-fed populations do suffer from other problems such as heart disease and whatnot, but it seems obvious that the abundance that has in part increased our life expectancy has also produced some fat people.

Erishkegal said...

Thanks, Eve, for making my brain go "HEY! That's BRILLIANT!" -- seriously, you gave me an "aha" moment.

As I've read it, nature shows us over and over again that biodiversity is both an indicator of and a condition for the health of an ecosystem. Why, then, do people continue to think it's "healthy" for all people to be the same shape and size (also insert race/religion/political stance/whatever, but that's another argument)?

I love the title, by the way. Godwin for the lose! (Possibly "for the loss" -- I have no idea if "win" in "for the win" is meant to be a grammatically-correct noun or an intentionally incorrect verb, as is so common in webspeak. My students would be laughing so hard right now. These are the things that keep me from sleeping at night. Anyway, I like "for the lose" better.)


Anonymous said...

I just thought I should say something, cause I'm Jewish and it's about the Holocaust.

You have to be some real sick bastard to suggest the Holocaust was a good thing cause people were thin.

It reminds me of a quote that was reportedly said by some supermodel, about kids starving in Africa. She said, "Wow, I'd love to be that thin, except without all the flies and stuff."

Also I'm reminded of a skit I think it was on SNL, but it could also have been on Mad TV. It was Who Wants to be a Millionare but you won food instead. They had someone as a contestant who was starving from living in a poor country. They kept saying, "Alright so you have food...but you don't eat it?"

It's just amazing how some people can look into the face of suffering, and see some good in it. I mean, there's optimism, and then there's just being complete inept towards the suffering of another human being.

By the way Rio Iriri, have you seen the Twilight Zone Deaths-Head Revisited from Season 3?

If you haven't it's about a Nazi guard who revisits the concentration camp he lorded over. The ghosts of the prisoners he tormented came back to life, and took revenge on him by making him feel what it was like to experience the tortures he gave to them. In the end the guard is supposedly irreversibly insane, and is taken to a mental institution.

I really like it because at the end they point out that the reasons the concentration camps should stand, is to remind people of the horrors of what happened in them.

It also might be interesting to know that Rod Serling was Jewish. A good lot of the Twilight Zone episodes, as well as some of the Night Gallery episodes were revenge fantasy stories against the Nazis.