Specialized Types of Fatlogic


Twenty-two thousand is a pretty decent-size subject pool for a study, but the result given by this one could have been arrived at through mere common sense. The University of Illinois found that…

[…] diet-beverage consumers may compensate for the absence of calories in their drinks by noshing on extra food that is loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

Dr. Ruopeng An, professor of kinesiology and community health, wanted to do something different. Past research on the beverage-to-food relationship had centered around snacks between meals, but An wanted to document “the nutritional quality of the food participants consumed, rather than when it was eaten.”

It turns out that although drinkers of coffee and diet sodas consume fewer daily calories than those who prefer other beverages, the coffee and diet soda drinkers obtained a greater percentage of their calories from “discretionary” foods, which usually means calorie-laden junk.

The ethnicity of the subjects provided some minor variations, but it was shown that, universally, obese consumers of diet beverages took in more calories worth of discretionary noshes. The professor makes it plain:

“If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories rather than drink them,” An said […]

In exploring associations between beverage type and dietary quality, An found that people who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages or coffee had the worst nutrition profiles.

Ouch! It hurts to have this kind of disordered thought pattern exposed. In a similar vein, a very long article by Melissa A. Fabello and Linda Bacon contains good points intermingled with ideas that could be characterized as crypto-fatlogic.

Let’s take a look.

The authors are upset by “concern trolling,” said to be a form of online communication in which a forum participant pretends to care about the people affected by an issue, but really wants to insult them. This can be seen from another perspective.

A common troll strategy is to imply that one is not entitled to participate in conversation about a certain group of humans — women, Asians, obese people, artists, whatever — unless one is a member of that group. Input from outsiders is deprecated or denigrated by the label “concern trolling.”

Specifically, the authors are bothered by fatphobic concern trolling, especially when it is performed by feminists who allegedly “rush to quote sketchy research and throw oppressive ideologies around all in the name of, supposedly, ‘health.'”

There are 11 discrete points of contention, which will not all be mentioned here. The first addresses stereotyped and unchallenged assumptions, which are oppressive. Okay, but they go on to quote fat pride activist Marilyn Wann:

The only thing anyone can accurately diagnose when looking at a fat person is their own level of weight prejudice.

Not really. Several professions are filled with highly trained people who can, at a glance, assess the probability that an individual experiences shortness of breath, suffers from diabetes, and will not live as long as they otherwise might have, if not for their obesity.

Next, building on the laudable premise that correlation does not equal causation, come explanations of why obesity is not really America’s second leading cause of preventable death, or even an agent of disease. Obesity, in short, has not been proven to bring about either co-morbidities or premature demise. Viewed from this mindset, what’s really going on is that both dieting and weight cycling cause inflammation, which causes the illnesses erroneously blamed on obesity.

Number four reminds us that being the target of fatphobia is stressful, and stress contributes to health problems. Granted, no one should be mean to overweight people. But this might be going too far:

The way that you feel about your body […] has a much more significant impact on your overall wellness than the actual shape and size of your body itself.

From there, the authors go on to ask, “[…] And is it even really appropriate to value health?” — and make the claim that weight loss does not really improve health, so that’s another myth to be gotten rid of.

At some point, we arrive at what can only be called crazy talk:

A liposuction study that controlled for behavioral change found absolutely no improvement in obesity-associated metabolic abnormalities, despite the weight loss that occurred.

Many of the remaining discussion points seem to say the same things in different ways, and it might be fitting to issue a jargon alert, because the reader will encounter such constructions as,

Because One-Size-Fits-All Definitions of ‘Health’ Are Ableist and Perpetuate Healthism.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Diet beverage drinkers compensate by eating unhealthy food,” Eurekalert.org, 09/11/15
Source: “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone,” EverydayFeminism.com, 01/24/16
Image: Internet meme found at Chris Ward on Twitter

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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