Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Daddy, Me and "Chidhood Obesity"

My mom was telling me about finding letters from my dad and my grandfather from 1954 when he was in shipped off to a boarding school in Hamburg.
My dad came from a broken home. His parents divorced in 1953 when he was 11 because of marital incompatibility and infidelity.
For some unbeknownst reason, my grandfather who was a jerk, got at the time custody of my dad who was a super gifted, yet nerdy chubby child.
Basically the only people who really loved my dad as a kid were his grandmothers and his brother, my uncle Don who is my dad's half-brother.
Yes, my peoples were WAY ahead of their times with Liz Taylor/ J-Lo/Britney going ons...
Well, my mom read in the letters that my grandfather constantly harassed and tormented my dad about his height and his weight. And put my dad through the same kind of Joseph Mengele-type experimentation for growth/weight loss me and my younger brother were subjected to.
My dad went through super low calorie diets. Pills. Brutal execise regimens and endless series of HCG shots. Maybe the shots dysregulated his immune function and ended up causing the cancer that killed him?
Yes, we lost weight. Yes, we grew. But I don't think anymore than we would have grown on our own, given time. And why was it so fucking crucial that we were thin? WHY?
We are built a certain way. We are awesome people with privileged brains. Why do we have to be fucking thin too? Why is what we are not fucking enough?
All the weight we lost, was basically through time regained. None of us eats sensational portions of " bad foods". We eat what our slender friends eat and what out slimmer relatives eat. And yet, we remain chubby. That is our constitution.
And the worst part about it was that my mom was SHOCKED about how cruel my Opa ( grandfather) had been to my daddy about his weight.
I told her to see HERSELF reflected exactly the same way in him, because that is the EXACT same way she has treated me all along.
What there is a bunch of unscrupulous researchers who will exploit prejudice and insecurities to keep their careers going and grants coming in.
There are a bunch of unscrupulous companies who are willing to destroy the self esteem of children and adults and maybe their health long-term in order to make a profit and who have de facto created a new oppressed group and a non-existent pseudopathological condition.
And the only thing that keeps happening, is that we are going to have more and more children and adults like me and my daddy who were turned into veritable experimental animals and treated cruelly our entire lives so these fucks can make a buck...
My dad finally died a thin person in 2001 of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and a pneumonia that he could not overcome because the chemo had taken all the strenght out of him and he was too thin and too weak for his immune system to work properly.
The medical system exploited him to the very last minute and they were charging even for procedures he did not have because he was insured until they dried up the insurance money.
But the last time I saw him alive his leg was as thick as my wrist.
I hope my grandfather was finally fucking happy.
For us thinness means illness and chubbiness means health. But the medical and scientific assholes will not accept that there are different phenotypes of humans when it comes to weight and size. Fuck you idiots! There are big dogs, there are small dogs. BOTH kinds of dogs are normal in their phenotype. What is so fucking hard to understand there?
Here is an article by Paul Campos that explains things pretty well.
I love you daddy. I know you are watching over me. I am fighting back for what has been done to both of us.
Your Little Fish.
CAMPOS: A $10,000 'obesity' challenge

By Paul Campos
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
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The Washington Post is running a week-long front-page series regarding the supposed crisis childhood "obesity" poses to the nation. It provides reporters and editors with a blueprint for how to engage in hysterical fearmongering while committing egregious journalistic malpractice.

First, string together a long series of alarmist claims, backed by a bunch of random and unverifiable anecdotes. Garnish this with a smattering of misleading and context-free statistics.

Second, treat data-free assumptions and speculations as if they actually constituted well-established facts, not contested by any reasonable person.

Third, make sure to throw in lots of stuff about how all sorts of spectacular catastrophes are "expected" to take place in the conveniently distant future.

Fourth, and most important, hoodwink your readers into believing that a highly controversial issue isn't controversial at all, by ignoring the many experts on the issue who disagree completely with the basic thesis of your story.

The Post series is a textbook example of all these strategies. Here are a few things its readers would never guess:

* Ever since public health records began to be compiled in America in the mid-19th century, the following statement has always been true: Today's children are both larger and healthier, on average, than those of a generation ago.

* In the 1950s and 1960s, government officials claimed constantly that we were facing a public health crisis because Americans in general, and children in particular, were becoming fat and sedentary.

Indeed, the very same predictions being made today about what will happen 40 and 50 years from now were also made, in almost precisely the same terms, 40 and 50 years ago. These predictions turned out to be not merely wrong, but exactly the opposite of what actually happened.

* The current definitions of what constitutes an overweight or obese child were invented recently by public health officials, so they could give a scientific-sounding answer to the question of how many children are "overweight" and "obese."

To be precise, children are currently classified as overweight or obese if they occupy what represented the 85th and 95th percentiles of height-weight growth charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

If you're wondering what the rationale for this definition is, the answer is that there isn't one. It's an arbitrary number that is now being exploited by government officials eager to sell the idea that we face a health crisis (again, American children and adults are healthier now than they've ever been).

* Many doctors, epidemiologists, eating disorder specialists, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and scholars from other disciplines have concluded that claims we face an "obesity crisis" are either greatly exaggerated or completely false.

One reason why fearmongering for dollars (described to me by a government researcher as the theory that "we're all going to die if you don't fund my next study") is so perennially successful is that there are almost never any negative consequences for those who engage in it.

Here's one small step that could be taken to address that. The first story in the Post's series cites a 2005 study predicting a two-to-five-year drop in life expectancy "unless aggressive action manages to reverse obesity rates." Jay Olshansky, the study's lead author, is quoted in the story as saying that "five years may be an underestimate."

I challenge Olshansky to the following wager: If, at any decennial census going forward, obesity rates have risen or remained the same, and life expectancy in America has declined, I'll pay him $10,000. If we don't get any thinner but life expectancy has risen, he'll pay me the same sum.

These are, given Olshansky's predictions, quite generous terms in his favor. (If he has scruples against gambling, we can make a charitable contribution in the other's name).


Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. He can be reached at
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© Rocky Mountain News


tehkou said...

Not to mention sensationalistic news outlets manipulating scientific terms to get a scarier-sounding story on the 6:00 news -- my sister loves to point out their misuse of the scientific term "significant" (as in, "scientists have discovered a significant link between obesity and various health risks").

Some people are fat because they overeat, sure... and some people are skinny because they're anorexic. Some are fat because of genetic predisposition. Some are skinny because they carefully watch their weight. Some are fat because they just had a baby. Some are skinny because food allergies prevent them from getting the daily nutrition that they need. Some are fat because they have an office job that gives little time for exercise. Some are skinny because they have a chronic illness. And if we're just talking about BMI, I believe most bodybuilders qualify as "obese."

When you look at it, there are so many reasons why a person may be one way or another, that it's ridiculous to assume you know everything about how a person got to be that way just by looking at them or hearing about their weight. What the fuck ever happened to basic human empathy?

That said... if it can be a means to an end, I'm glad that the "obesity epidemic" is at least putting some heat on the fast food companies to tone it down a bit. There is no reason for portions to have gotten as large as they have in recent years other than for company profits; they train people to think that stuffing themselves is the only way to feel satisfied, and I do think that's unhealthy, regardless of how it reflects in your external weight.

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Milla said...

I agree with you on everything.
particularly on the manipulation of statistical terms that can mean really anything you want them to.
How do they mean significant?
What did they use to determine significance?
Is it statistical significance or clinical significance? What size was their sample?
What variables did they isolate for? What could be counfounding factors?
Those clinical studies are usually designed with their butts. Seriously.
I missed you :-)

Milla said...

I forgot.. what I like about the changes in fast food is that there are more "less fatty" options...
I rarely eat fast food but I like having stuff like chicken fajitas and stuff like that available because I have a messed up gall bladder.
But they could have done that without inventing a fake epidemic that has caused so much suffering...