Thursday, 26 April 2012

They said Galileo was wrong too

A friend of mine, lifelong dieter, and recent convert to a Health At Every Size approach, has just started out on the fun task of explaining her change of lifestyle to her nearest and dearest. This did not go down well with big sis, who was somewhat scathing. Her dismissive comment: 'Are you trying to tell me all those doctors are wrong?'

Without getting into the difficulties of obtaining familial support for such a huge change, the question is one that will come up time and again. How can all those doctors be wrong? If overweight doesn't have to mean unhealthy, why are the government, the medical profession, the people at the gym, the media, my employer, all my friends,  and Joe Bloggs on the street, all telling us that we need to lose weight? EVERYBODY knows that being fat is bad for your health. It's obvious.

Well, yeah, everybody knows. And once upon a time, everybody knew that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around us, that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones, that lead could be turned into gold, and that animals could spontaneously morph into existence. There were even recipe books to help with that last one. Just because everybody believes it doesn't make it true.

But if it's not true, where is the evidence? Look around folks, it's everywhere. Study after study is emerging that supports the fact that fat doesn't have to mean unhealthy. So why isn't this filtering into mainstream medical practice or public policy?

Because people see what they want to see. What they expect to see. And when they don't see it that way, they twist it until it supports their preconceived beliefs. There have been two recent studies that have suffered this fate. I've been meaning to blog about them, but every time I go back to the original papers to prepare my post, I get overwhelmed by sheer exasperation and disbelief that anybody could come to such ridiculous conclusions based on fairly decent evidence. One study showed that not all fat people were unhealthy. The conclusion? Only the unhealthy ones needed to lose weight. The other study found that BMI did not capture true health risk, and that some 'thin' people were at risk. The conclusion? BMI is not a reliable measure of health risk. OK so far. The solution? The BMI cut-off for obesity should be lowered. Again. BMI 24 is obese, anybody? Oh, and throw in a blood test or a full body scan to be sure that we're counselling the right people about weight loss. Are you f**king kidding me????

The hype around the so-called 'obesity epidemic' has chalked up another casualty. Science is supposed to reveal the truth. If it is well conducted it does. But scientists have to keep an open mind and look for that truth without the filter of their existing agenda. On the other hand, without the hysteria, where would the research funding come from?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Pirates! In an adventure with bigotry

SPOILER ALERT: Major plot point giveaway ahead!

I've just had the dubious pleasure of sitting through the movie 'The Pirates! In an adventure with scientists' at the cinema. OK, it was quite funny in parts (in particular, lots of clever anachronisms about evolution), but to be frank, I thought it was a bit laboured. Still, hubby seemed to like it.

But to the point. The story is set in Victorian England, with good ol' Queen Victoria playing the role of number one baddie. She is manipulative, power-mad, and has a penchant for eating rare and endangered animals for fun. And she has her sights set on Polly, the Pirate Captain's beloved dodo. An ex-parrot!

Now you'd think that would give the script writers plenty to get their teeth into, but what do they do when they want to make fun of the queen? They have their protagonist tell her that dodo is fattening, and given her already portly figure, she should probably abstain because otherwise it would go straight onto her "chubby thighs". I kid you not. In other words, it's not bad enough that she's an evil megalomaniac. More importantly, she's fat!

Now you might think that I'm making a lot of fuss over nothing here. As hubby pointed out to me, Queen Vicky was also incredibly fit and had ninja fighting skills, she did not "wobble around". His point being that the portrayal of the queen as a larger lady was not entirely negative - in a physical sense. But this really just strengthens my point. With so much else going on, the appropriate way to diminish her prowess and attack her character was deemed to be to call her a fatty.

It's worth noting that the Pirate Captain himself was practically bursting out of his buttons, but nobody commented on his figure. And when it is suggested that Polly the parrot/dodo might be a little on the round side, the Captain defends her by saying she is just big boned. But of course, they're the good guys. On the other hand, let's not have a go at the Queen for being a nasty, dodo-eating, villainous sociopath. We can cover the whole lot just by calling her fat.

This movie was rated U, making it suitable for ages 4 and above. I've written before about how children as young as six already have such negative images of fat people that no-one wants to be friends with the chubby kid. Is this really the lesson that light entertainment should be teaching our kids?