Sunday, March 2, 2008

A telling quote from "Rethinking Thin"

From Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, by Gina Kolata:
"Baumann, of California Medical Weight Loss Associates, said that doctors there prescribed [phen-fen] for people who were at least 20 percent above their ideal weight. 'A lady who weighs 120 and should weigh 100 pounds is obese,' he said..."

I'm sorry, but NO. First of all, this "should weigh" bullshit is so subjective that it is practically meaningless. A woman who "should weigh" 100 pounds, even according to the b.s. Met life height weight tables, would have to be under 4'10". So, okay, it's a bad example--but, the fact that he uses that particular example tells me that this has absolutely jack and shit to do with health, and everything to do with making women conform to some insane, unattainable, unsustainable ideal. No adult woman of a normal height* is "obese" or even "fat" at 120 pounds, no matter how much self-deprecation individuals of that size heap upon themselves.

This "20%" rule quoted by the doctor is clearly used to justify making money off of people for weight loss treatment who did not need to be losing weight. Putting a 120-lb woman on phen-fen so that she doesn't eat as much makes absolutely NO sense. If someone is not naturally 100 lbs without having to diet, then they should not try to force themselves to be that weight.

I understand doctors freaking out about those of us who are 220 lbs, because they've been brainwashed into thinking that someone of this size is inherently unhealthy. It's based on incorrect information, of course, and we are working to change it, but I understand it. I DO NOT understand a doctor encouraging a slim woman to lose even more weight, though, except that the woman herself is dissatisfied with her size and asks for help. I think the appropriate thing in that situation, though, is to tell the patient that they do not need to engage in weight loss to the point that they are "underweight"--but how often do you think doctors do that?

It's also quite interesting to note that no one is ever satisfied with their size. If a 250-lb person loses 100 lbs, down to 150, they are not likely to be satisfied; they will move their goal to a lower number. The 120-pound woman wants to be 100 pounds, and at 100-pounds will then want to go below three digits. And so on. And, no matter what you do, it won't ever be enough for some of these fat-hating doctors. Sure, you made it down to 120, but you COULD be 100, so here, have some pills. Have some surgery.

My final observation: The example was a woman. I'm dismayed at how women are so often targeted for needing to be thinner, thinner, thinner, especially by male doctors. Call my cynical, but I really believe that Dr. Fathater's personal aesthetics are more important to him than women's health.

* By normal height, I mean above 4'10", as people under that size may qualify as Little People, depending on other medical factors.


Kira said...

As the blog title states so well, I blame the patriarchy. Lately I've been reading feminist websites (e.g., Pandagon, Bitch PhD, Feministe, Feministing, Shakespeare's Sister) heavily in addition to the FA websites, and it's interesting to see how often the experiences of feminists and fat people dovetail. As a fat woman I obviously can't speak to the experiences of fat men, but I do see fat women getting essentially a "double dose" of the expectations that are put upon women by the current system. Women are still expected by much of society, and far too many individuals, to be quiet rather than loud, fragile rather than strong, a follower rather than a leader (just look at all the attacks on Hillary - I believe Melissa McEwan has compiled nearly 70 by now, without trying very hard).

Most of all, women are supposed to conform to conventional beauty norms, meaning thin (i.e., fragile), beautified (meaning you need to spend every spare minute and penny at beauty salons and the gym, up to )$1700/MONTH!), and fashionable (spending whatever expendable cash and time you have left at the local mall). You'll notice that in order to conform to these norms, women are expected to devote nearly all their time and energy in efforts designed to appease men and society in general, in addition to the housecleaning and caretaking duties which are traditionally considered the responsibility of women. The combination of these pressures leaves little time for personal interests and pursuits, political activism, organization, advanced education, etc., and thus resulting in a lack of empowerment. You simply don't have time to stand up for yourself if you follow all the expectations put upon women! Perhaps I'm venturing into tinfoil hat territory, but it almost seems that these norms are designed with the result of disempowering women in mind - at a minimum, it's a beneficial side effect for the privileged group (male, particularly thin, middle class+ white males). As long as women are too worried about losing those last 20 pounds (and demeaning ourselves for our weight), we won't notice what's going on around us and demand more respect. I think this is all the more reason to support FA - it has the potential to help women of all body shapes and sizes.

Kira said...

Oops, sorry - I didn't realize that had gotten so long! Guess I get worked up about this topic! :S

Anonymous said...

At my previous job (medical reception) a thin woman - probably 18 or 19 - came in looking for diet pills. My employer prescribed them to her. His wife threw a fit about it, and all he could say was that the BMI chart said she was fat. I remember how extremely screwed up that BMI chart was - of course, it was provided by the pharma company that produces the diet drug. It claimed that a woman my height (5'4") should be 110 pounds in order to be "healthy."

It's troubling that women can never be GOOD enough.

beck said...

OMG, Sarah.

110 at 5'4"? What should I weigh, I'm only 5'2"?

I remember as a teen (years ago, now), a doctor told me I could lose weight if I wanted (he wouldn't help me) but if my weight got under 114 he would have my parents hospitalize me, as he felt I would be severely underweight. And I hadn't even hit 5' yet!

He was the most amazing doc. My whole family loved him and he never criticized our weight (fat or thin). He was far more concerned about our health. He's retired now, but man do we all miss him!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Personally ladies I think you are both 110% correct! It is NEVER enough. Using Oprah as an example...she's got more power than God...more money too and what does she worry about. Her weight. As often as not what do people attack her for...her weight.

I'd like her to read "NO fat chicks" and "the Beauty Myth"...while not a fan of her show I'd make an effort to see those book clubs.

She writes about finding your bliss, peace, whatever, but quite frankly this endless battle with weight and trying to look like we're 15 is not that feakin' blissful BUT as you pointed really is OUTSTANDING at keeping us otherwise occupied with self abuse and recrimination, ain't it?

While I'm the first to admit that things have changed for the better in many ways for women over the past 100 years it also has to be said that in exchange for the autonamy we've gotten it seems we're required to look like sticks with tits to be allowed to enjoy it.

We could use a little of that 'balance' Oprah seems to pay lip service to!