Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fat Karma: Voodoo Hex of Fat Fear

I've been busy reading those books quite relevant to this subject, and designed a Buddhist class series focusing mostly on Mindful Eating, but also including information from Health at Every Size, and Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.

I've got a list around here somewhere of threads I'd still like to cover. Add this website, First Do No Harm, to things to check out regarding Health Care Bigotry. While procrastinating over my class series preparation I read through all of these. It is heartbreaking. The most recent is on anesthetic. I just love :/ how health care providers will act as if it is the fat person's fault that they cannot figure out the correct dosage. How hard can it be to improve dosage knowledge?

On to this thread. There are quite a few soggy science articles on obesity. I just read one today that was an eye-roller. Whenever you come across an article on how bad obesity is, take some time trying to find the science in it. Well, first you'll notice the required fat-person pornography. You know, the lazy fat person body parts that show just how gluttonous and unsexy we fat Americans are. This lazy article claims obesity has surpassed smoking as the "bigger drag on health." The science they quote? Debunked, long ago. There was no such thing as a quarter of a million deaths from obesity. CDC even admitted that was a mistake. A mistake!

A CDC-sponsored study, published last April in PLoS Medicine, found that as of 2005 smoking was the most frequent killer (causing about one in five deaths), with high blood pressure following up close behind (causing one in six deaths). Obesity came in third at that point, being responsible for almost a quarter of a million deaths—or one in 10.
What else do they have to say? That some survey said obesity affects quality of life? Well, maybe if we weren't of a group still acceptable to marginalize, maybe we'd have a better quality of life. If I have one quibble with the documentary series, Unnatural Causes, it's that they didn't cover the detrimental effect that sizism has on people. Perhaps that is because a cascade effect demonizing "excess" weight has been in effect for so many years that there are no studies looking for anything but fat as the cause for poor health. It is entrenched in the public consciousness that fat is bad. Yet Unnatural Causes showed that inequalities because of wealth, societal standing, and race all have an effect on health, even down to a person's propensity to catch a cold. See number six: chronic stress can be toxic.

That is part of the voodoo hex equation. Everyone tells us we have poor health because of our weight. Many feel justified in treating us differently because of our weight. Doctors treat us differently because many of them view us as ugly, lazy, lying, and/or non-compliant. This chronic stress has an effect on all those indicators that are linked with obesity, and for which obesity is blamed.

Because we have these messages coming at us, many of us from the time we were children, many of us believe them. We believe we are unhealthy. We believe as long as we are fat, we are incapable of being healthy. Not only does this add to the chronic stress, and diminish our motivation, it has to spark a nocebo response. Heck, the placebo/nocebo response works on some even if they don't believe it.

I think of this karma like many little pins poking us. Every time a person has a thought about the badness of their fat, it is a pin poking them. Every time a doctor tells a person it's going to make them unhealthy, it's a pin poking them. If we believe it, and continually think these negative thoughts toward our bodies and our supposed inability to take care of them, we continually poke these needles in our psyche. I visualize myself repelling those pins. I refuse to let them sink in, to draw blood. You should do it too. Whether you think you could lose a few pounds, or the doctors keep telling you that you must lose weight, don't let those nasty pins prick you. Don't feed those thoughts that say, if only I lost some weight, this walk would be easier. If you think that, the walk will be hard, and it's though it doesn't count. Allow it to count. Allow yourself to feel how healthy your body really is.

I have had doctors scold me, telling me I need to exercise more. (Remember, they don't ask. I don't remember anyone ever asking.) When I say I do, and that I also have a fairly active job, they say it's not enough, and the job doesn't count. Funny thing, this study shows that if I believe that, indeed it will not be enough. I don't believe that thought. I believe there are aspects of my job that give me a workout, and it is indeed exercise that counts, like the housekeepers in the study. Jeez, I have proof. When I cut back from full to half time, I gained weight. Are these docs going to tell me I need to work out 20 hours a week to make up for the dropped work hours? Remember, those times Oprah lost her weight, she was working out many hours a day.

I fantasize about what a different world it would be if those who make it their job to care about my health would not try to hex my health. How much more pleasant it would be if a doctor expressed concern about my health by saying something like this: "I'm concerned about your weight, and your blood pressure going up in recent years. I've noticed otherwise your health indicators are quite good. Won't you tell me what your habits are that support your good health?" We could then proceed to have a conversation about those things I do that are good, and that I enjoy doing, and collaborate on how I could improve my habits. We could also acknowledge that my family's history of high blood pressure could be the thing that caused my slightly elevated number, and that perhaps perimenopause is effecting changes on my body. At no point in this fantasy does the doctor wish early death upon me, because at this point, none of my health indicators are that alarming.

Earlier posts in this series:
It Starts Young
Health Care Bigotry
Morbidity and Weight

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