Fatsplaining, Children, and Racism

 

It’s not like we haven’t been talking about obesity in this country for years. Issues of weight gain were discussed in the early 20th century:

In the mid-1970s the obesity rate for the United States was about 14%. 1994 is the first year with CDC data for all states and shows all states at obesity rates of 19% or lower. By 1997, three states were in the 20-24% range: Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri. In 2001, Missouri became the first state to have an obesity rate between 25-29%. By 2005, 14 states were in the 25-29% range while three states breached the 30% and higher rate (Louisiana, Missouri, and West Virginia). By 2010, no state reported an obesity rate under 19%.

Unfortunately, we have made little progress in improving these numbers for adults. And some people have decided rather than find solutions, they’d rather stigmatize the larger population with the latest popular attack from the University of Chicago’s school of public health:

‘Though lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise are important, it is essential to note the historical racism and injustices within our current food environment,’ the brief said. ‘As presented by Soul Fire Farm, the U.S. food system is built on stolen land using stolen labor from Black and Latinx indigenous people. Not only has this created a large-scale food apartheid and trauma for people indigenous to this land, it has caused a disconnection of indigenous people from their cultural practices and identities.’

And there’s this report:

Last week, the Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston hosted a lecture on ‘Fatphobia as Misogynoir: Gender, Race, and Weight Stigma,’ where University of California, Irvine associate professor Sabrina Strings addressed ‘fat stigma’ and the ‘centrality of slavery and race science in its perpetuation throughout the western world.’

Of course. It’s really about racism.

The worst part of this obsession on obesity is that the microscope is now focused on children. I guess we’ve given up on trying to convince the adults that there are good reasons for their children to maintain a healthy lifestyle and that moderation in weight maintenance is important; we wouldn’t want to damage their self-esteem. Yet there are serious reasons to be concerned about  our youth:

More than half of young American adults are either overweight or obese, according to new Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research. In a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a team analyzed a nationally representative sample of 8,015 nonpregnant people ages 18 to 25 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The survey has been conducted multiple times over the past 40 years.

So, what are the solutions?—

One of the best approaches to reduce childhood obesity is to improve eating and exercise habits of the entire family and ensure families have access to healthy, unprocessed food. From a medical standpoint, the normalizing of obesity must end to prevent the overwhelming amount of chronic illness that is sure to ensue.

Works for me. Only it’s clear that most people are unable or unwilling to make these changes to achieve these goals. Worse yet, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, and bone and joint dysfunction are appearing not just in adults, but in children, too.

But do not fear. The experts are not giving up on our kids. Instead, they’ve decided that drugs and surgery are the answers.

*     *     *     *

Several factors have been identified which illustrate the complexity of the problem of obesity in children: the lack of physical activity; pre-occupation with computers; the urban v. rural lifestyle; poor education on healthy foods; desire to only eat foods that “taste good;” high sugar diets; and history with overweight family members.

But I also suspect that the problems go even deeper than those I’ve listed here. They have a great deal to do with factors like discipline, responsibility, discretion, self-gratification, habits, commitment, and other attributes that determine the ways we choose to live our lives.  And especially if parents lack those values, the children are unlikely to learn them anywhere else. Perhaps most debilitating are the fear and anxiety that both adults and children experience. They use food to comfort themselves.

*     *     *     *

There is also the question of whether the government should be involved in mitigating the “epidemic” of obesity. Is it any of their business? Isn’t this a role better suited for the private sector? We could argue that the private sector has figured out that pills, diets, and the latest exercise rage will be its focus, rather than making an in-depth cultural change; they know their potential customers want a quick and easy fix.

But what role should the government have, if any, in dealing with the issue of obesity in children?

And should we simply throw in the towel when we should be helping our kids regarding obesity?

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I feel compelled to add that some folks may not want to discuss this topic because of their own weight issues, or even the weight issues of their own children. This problem seems impossible to resolve, but maybe a light will shine on some remedies that are offered.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I believe that the problem is closely related to an around-the-clock eating lifestyle that has contributed to insulin resistance in many people. Intermittent fasting, or as it is known altermatively, time restricted eating will be very helpful for most people.

    Everybody is different and there is much more to be considered with regards to the carnivore-to-vegan spectrum and the impact of low-saturated-fat diets. Much of this is controversial, but restricting eating to a smaller portion of the day is a good place to start.

    Dr. Sten Ekberg has produced a number of good videos on intermittent fasting and health. One thing I like about him is that he does not push a bunch of supplements or advocate what I consider to be extreme positions.

    And yes, let’s keep government out of this. Think Covid-19.

    • #2
  3. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    It’s really quite simple.   Take in more calories than you burn up and you gain weight.   Period.   Everything else is just variations on that theme.  It’s all diet and exercise.

    • #3
  4. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    The libertarian in me (which is most of me) says that my own weight, and that of my children, is my concern. Everybody else can make their own decisions.

    That’s the problem with a welfare state. We’ve made everybody’s health a matter for government intervention. Which leaves us with a problem that, as you suggest, is not soluble.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoelB (View Comment):
    Much of this is controversial, but restricting eating to a smaller portion of the day is a good place to start.

    I come from a family that always struggled with their weight. I love food myself, but somehow had the discipline to manage my intake; this might or might not work for others, although it’s pretty common sense: three small healthy meals per day (with no extra helpings); morning and afternoon healthy snack (wheat crackers or dried dates). And no snacking after dinner. And I get some exercise every day. 

    Am I super strict about it? No. But if I’m fairly consistent, it works for me.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    That’s the problem with a welfare state. We’ve made everybody’s health a matter for government intervention. Which leaves us with a problem that, as you suggest, is not soluble.

    Without trying to sound conspiratorial, it’s just another excuse for government to intrude on our lives. No thanks!

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    The libertarian in me (which is most of me) says that my own weight, and that of my children, is my concern. Everybody else can make their own decisions.

    That’s the problem with a welfare state. We’ve made everybody’s health a matter for government intervention. Which leaves us with a problem that, as you suggest, is not soluble.

    I hope that you can overcome the libertarian in you.

    What it means is that the well-being of other people is none of your business.  Why would you think this?

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan, though the quotes that you present are limited, it seems to me that they are making the typical argument made by the critical race theory folks — that the failures and problems of non-white people are all the fault of white people.

    So, a lot of blacks and Indians are fat, and it’s whitey’s fault.  Right.

    On the broader question of obesity, I am quite obese myself, and I don’t mind talking about it.  It’s not a good thing.

    The big problem is probably widely available, tasty, high-calorie food, coupled with enjoyable sedentary leisure activities.  So it’s easy to overeat, and it’s easy to sit in front of a screen and eat Cheetos or whatever, and we end up fat.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Susan, though the quotes that you present are limited, it seems to me that they are making the typical argument made by the critical race theory folks — that the failures and problems of non-white people are all the fault of white people.

    What in the world are you talking about? Nothing I wrote about said anything about whites or blacks. If people are obese, who’s “at fault?” The parents? The food manufacturers? The cheap and yummy food so readily available? I wasn’t saying anyone or anything was to blame; I simply said the issue is complex. If you’re going to attack my points, Jerry, try to be sure your attacks come after something I actually said.

    • #9
  10. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Some of the child obesity is affected by long school days, day care, and child isolation. Which is related to dual income families and helicopter parenting.

    My neighborhood I’m in now is an improvement on this, but it is still an issue elsewhere.

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Susan, though the quotes that you present are limited, it seems to me that they are making the typical argument made by the critical race theory folks — that the failures and problems of non-white people are all the fault of white people.

    What in the world are you talking about? Nothing I wrote about said anything about whites or blacks. If people are obese, who’s “at fault?” The parents? The food manufacturers? The cheap and yummy food so readily available? I wasn’t saying anyone or anything was to blame; I simply said the issue is complex. If you’re going to attack my points, Jerry, try to be sure your attacks come after something I actually said.

    Susan, it wasn’t what you wrote, it was the content of the quotes that you were criticizing.

    The CRT language does come across as almost unintelligible, but I think that I’ve learned to decipher what they mean in their gibberish.

    I was responding to this part of the OP — noting that the double-indented parts are not your words, Susan, but the quotes that you were criticizing (I think):

    Susan Quinn:

    ‘Though lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise are important, it is essential to note the historical racism and injustices within our current food environment,’ the brief said. ‘As presented by Soul Fire Farm, the U.S. food system is built on stolen land using stolen labor from Black and Latinx indigenous people. Not only has this created a large-scale food apartheid and trauma for people indigenous to this land, it has caused a disconnection of indigenous people from their cultural practices and identities.’

    And there’s this report:

    Last week, the Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston hosted a lecture on ‘Fatphobia as Misogynoir: Gender, Race, and Weight Stigma,’ where University of California, Irvine associate professor Sabrina Strings addressed ‘fat stigma’ and the ‘centrality of slavery and race science in its perpetuation throughout the western world.’ 

    Of course. It’s really about racism.

    These quotes did say something about whites and blacks, didn’t it?  It doesn’t expressly mention whites, but does mention “Black and Latinx indigenous people” and more about “indigenous people” (apparently not just Latinx ones), and the connection of “Weight Stigma” with “race” and the “centrality of slavery and race science” in the perpetuation of . . . well, something . . . “throughout the western world.”  I think that the quote suggests that the thing being perpetuated because of slavery and race science is “fat stigma.”

    Does this make sense to you, as an interpretation of these strange quotes?

    My impression is that they’re claiming that obesity among non-whites is the fault of whites and, perhaps, that racism is the reason behind “fat stigma” (presumably because minorities have more fat people).

    • #11
  12. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Stina (View Comment):

    Some of the child obesity is affected by long school days, day care, and child isolation. Which is related to dual income families and helicopter parenting.

    My neighborhood I’m in now is an improvement on this, but it is still an issue elsewhere.

    Giving the kids 25 minute lunch periods when at least 15 of those minutes are spent standing in line doesn’t help. Neither does the elimination of outdoor recess.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stina (View Comment):
    Some of the child obesity is affected by long school days, day care, and child isolation. Which is related to dual income families and helicopter parenting.

    Someday I want to write a post on dual income parenting, although you might be a better person to write it, Stina. I know it can be tough trying to get by on one income, but wasn’t that a priority at one time? I thnk your other points are true.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that they’re claiming that obesity among non-whites is the fault of whites and, perhaps, that racism is the reason behind “fat stigma” (presumably because minorities have more fat people).

    Sorry–I missed your point. But I believe that those claims are ridiculous–did I need to make that clearer? Maybe my sarcasm toward them wasn’t obvious.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    It’s really quite simple.   Take in more calories than you burn up and you gain weight.   Period.   Everything else is just variations on that theme.  It’s all diet and exercise.

    But for many people, “exercise” is a four-letter word–so to speak. They just don’t want to do it. But they’ll talk interminably about how hard it is to lose weight and the latest diet they are trying. 

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    Some of the child obesity is affected by long school days, day care, and child isolation. Which is related to dual income families and helicopter parenting.

    Someday I want to write a post on dual income parenting, although you might be a better person to write it, Stina. I know it can be tough trying to get by on one income, but wasn’t that a priority at one time? I thnk your other points are true.

    We are single income and have been since our oldest was born. We designed our life from the beginning that way and used my income as a boost until it went away. But there have been challenges related to my community not being in the same place as me.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stina (View Comment):
    But there have been challenges related to my community not being in the same place as me.

    Good for you making the touch choices. Which community are you referring to?

    • #17
  18. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    But there have been challenges related to my community not being in the same place as me.

    Good for you making the touch choices. Which community are you referring to?

    Neighborhood, church, schools… just where life is lived and the people you encounter in those circles. I was very isolated with my oldest two. Things are more balanced with my third, but we have bad habits in the oldest kids that I need to proactively fight.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Using drugs and surgery to “remedy the problem” with children, had echoes of the transgender advocates. There’s no way to know if these strategies will get the desired results–and will interfere with kids’ lives.

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    SQ, if you do a Dual Income post, I’ll provide a single income perspective in a dual income world. Either to add directly into your post or as a sister post.

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stina (View Comment):

    SQ, if you do a Dual Income post, I’ll provide a single income perspective in a dual income world. Either to add directly into your post or as a sister post.

    You are most welcome to write the post. I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. Maybe we should talk through PMs.

    • #21
  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that they’re claiming that obesity among non-whites is the fault of whites and, perhaps, that racism is the reason behind “fat stigma” (presumably because minorities have more fat people).

    Sorry–I missed your point. But I believe that those claims are ridiculous–did I need to make that clearer? Maybe my sarcasm toward them wasn’t obvious.

    It was clear that you thought that their claims were ridiculous.  My intent was to agree with and expand upon your criticism.

    • #22
  23. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    We eat a lot more palm oil in many products.  This might be one factor.

    • #23
  24. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    It’s really quite simple. Take in more calories than you burn up and you gain weight. Period. Everything else is just variations on that theme. It’s all diet and exercise.

    But for many people, “exercise” is a four-letter word–so to speak. They just don’t want to do it. But they’ll talk interminably about how hard it is to lose weight and the latest diet they are trying.

    I have exercise-induced asthma. Not breathing is a pretty strong negative reinforcement. Hence my career as an immovable object.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    It’s really quite simple. Take in more calories than you burn up and you gain weight. Period. Everything else is just variations on that theme. It’s all diet and exercise.

    But for many people, “exercise” is a four-letter word–so to speak. They just don’t want to do it. But they’ll talk interminably about how hard it is to lose weight and the latest diet they are trying.

    I have exercise-induced asthma. Not breathing is a pretty strong negative reinforcement. Hence my career as an immovable object.

    Now that is a dilemma, Doug! Do you just try to keep your calories down? 

    • #25
  26. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    There’s clearly only one solution – complete government control over what we eat . . .

    • #26
  27. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Stad (View Comment):

    There’s clearly only one solution – complete government control over what we eat . . .

    Their record on soft control of what we eat is too riddled with well documented lobbying and political maneuvering and questionable “settled” science, we’d be fools to go along with the hard version of it.

    • #27
  28. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    It’s amazing how shrinking parking spaces didn’t make us buy smaller cars and cramming us in airplane seats didn’t make us do anything other than get mad. Cooky cutter medicine and dietary guidelines are bad medicine and poor advice. People are different. And they gain and lose weight for different reasons. I think the best thing is to be humble about what we know and what we don’t know, and let people make choices. Some of those choices will be bad and there will be consequences. But, for some people, those “bad” choices don’t seem to have any consequence, and the experts don’t know why. That’s where humility comes in.

    Children, of course, are a special case. Parents need to make choices for them and hopefully those are informed — not faddish — choices. Every parent to be should be given a course in how “studies” have changed over time to variously support and contradict everything we have always known. Look at  family members who have seemed to have healthy lives and emulate the feeding practices they had as kids. They probably share some genetic predispositions that will affect how diet affects their health, and what body type they have that keeps them reasonably disease free. I would rely on that information more than prescriptions from the government, or the AMA.

    • #28
  29. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    What it means is that the well-being of other people is none of your business. Why would you think this?

    I never said that, nor did I mean it. I wish the best for other people. If someone asks me my advice, I’ll give it. If someone I care about is doing something that I think is a mistake, I’ll tell them, if I think that sharing my opinion will do less harm than good.

    But I am humble enough to believe that I don’t know what’s best for everyone. I am not so arrogant as to believe that everyone else weighs risks the same way I do, or has the same priorities and goals that I do. It is not my business to tell anyone else what decisions are best for them, nor is it anyone else’s business to tell me what is best for me.

    • #29
  30. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Food in general, and weight specifically, is very complicated. And for every individual who is over weight, there’s a different reason.

    I heard Lionel Shriver interviewed a few years ago about her book Big Brother. I just now learned it was a novel, but remembering the interview I believe one of the characters was inspired by her own brother, who I think died from his obesity.

    One thing that Lionel and the interviewer spoke of was a hopelessness, a not being invested in the future (or the future you) which so often lead to obesity. And that reminded me of an article by (I think) Caitlin Flanagan about volunteering at a food bank; that many poor families would grab all the candy they could if not limited.

       ****

    My mother had a friend who was overweight, and my mother was convinced that her friend just wanted to be unattractive to her husband.

      ****

    Recess time for school children has been getting less and less. PE was everyday when I was in grade school, and a requisite to graduate high school. My kids had recess only two days a week, and unless they were on a high school team, physical education of any kind wasn’t a part of their high school experience. If you want your kids to play sports, you have to involve them in AYSO, or Little League, or a club sport; don’t even get me started on the disruption that causes to the family in general, and dinner specifically. A friend (the mother of six) is convinced that AYSO was a communist plot to destroy the family.

       ****

    I, nor anyone in my family, has ever had a weight issue. I can’t speak for them, but it took me until middle age to realize I have lousy taste buds. I really don’t know if anything I’ve cooked is good until someone tells me. As for wine, I have no idea. When JY and I went to wine tasting classes I would just describe the person across the table from me: “flabby”, “thin”, “started hopeful but ended in disappointment”; “pretentious”, “boring”. I got away with it for years.

    Since Covid two years ago, about the only thing left I can taste is salt. I don’t have the will power to not eat every potato chip in sight, so I don’t buy any.

    I’m the last person to give any diet tips, but I know several people who have lost significant weight and successfully kept it off for years through intermittent fasting.

    • #30
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