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Obesity in 1950s America

April 5, 2013

I came across this fascinating article from LIFE magazine on obesity in 1950’s America. The writers in the 1950s refer to obesity as a “plague.” When compared with today’s numbers, the proportion of obese Americans is almost laughable. At the time, 5 million Americans were considered to be obese; today the number is closer to one-third.

Dorothy envies a woman's milkshake

Dorothy envies a woman’s milkshake

What’s truly fascinating about this article, however, is the photo essay featuring American woman, Dorothy Bradley.  The photos outline her struggles with overeating, body-image issues, and weight-loss efforts. Flipping through the pictures, I wouldn’t give Dorothy a second glance today. The images are heartbreaking, and you cannot help but feel for Dorothy as she is (likely) posed, envying thinner women. I love that our society has moved to a place where Dorothy wouldn’t stand out and would not feel so ashamed. However, it’s upsetting that it had to come at the cost of America’s health.


Fat (n.)

January 21, 2013

I’m becoming increasingly interested with popular conceptions of the word “fat.” We all say it almost everyday (in fact, less than ten minutes ago, I looked a cat dead in the eyes and said, “You’re fat”), but what do we really mean by it? To get a good idea of what we all mean by the word fat, I took to the source of all popular definitions –


Here’s what the internet had to say, some insightful, some not so much:

  • Substance the rich half of the world is trying to lose and the poor half wants to gain.
  • What people become after eating McDonalds for years, every day. These people usually end up 400+ lbs, and feel sorry for themselves. Usually they end up on Oprah, so bored housewives can feel sorry for them, and the government can send them free IRS money, stolen from people who actually work.
  • something every girl thinks she is.
  • The state of being an American


Fear of fat?

January 17, 2013

What do you think of this New York Times article: “Our Absurd Fear of Fat”? Author Paul Campos cites a recent study that says fatter people have a slightly lower mortality rate than their lesser weight peers. He also says that our fear of fat is perpetrated by those who benefit from pushing weight loss. What about these folks’ quality of life, overall health, and happiness? Or is it really just fear of fat that has shaped society? What do you think?

Does this dress make me look fat?

January 9, 2013

For decades, the joke has followed that men everywhere dread their wives and girlfriends asking, “Does this dress make me look fat?” There’s no good or satisfactory answer until now.

Wait Wait Host Peter Sagal (Image from The College Voice)

Wait Wait Host Peter Sagal (Image from The College Voice)

On the NPR quiz show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” British Ambassador Peter Westmacott provided perhaps the best possible answer. See the ever articulate diplomat’s answer to show host Peter Sagal’s question:

SAGAL: We wanted to see how your skills would work in everyday life. So I want to present some situations to you and see how a professional world class diplomat would respond. So here we go. Does this dress make me look fat?

WESTMACOTT: I think you look just marvelous in that dress.

SAGAL: That’s very good.

WESTMACOTT: I particularly like the color.

SAGAL: Excellent.

WESTMACOTT: I cannot imagine why you should think it makes you look anything other than perfect. I carefully don’t use the word “fat” again.

Possible penalties in Britain for being obese

January 7, 2013

Whoa! Check out this article on proposed budget-cutting in Britain. In this proposal, overweight people who don’t exercise per the doctor’s recommendation could have benefits slashed. This does seem a bit extreme; I like the opinion: “It would be fairer to use the money to support people rather than to penalise people.”

Fat guy v. Golf cart

January 7, 2013

I’ve been an avid listener to the Nerdist podcast for about two years now. Co-host Matt Mira often self-describes as fat, but it stings a little bit when the internet calls him fat. Before he was famous through Nerdist, Matt rose to fame as the accidental star in a youtube video that has many names, all of them involving the terms “fat guy” and “golf cart.” Ouch.

He finally owned up to it on his twitter in 2010 and the guys discuss it in this podcast episode. See the video below:

Overall, he seems to have taken the moniker “fat guy” in stride. I’m not sure I’d like the nickname “fat girl” however.

“I feel fat”

January 4, 2013

feel fatI have a good friend who often says to me: “I feel fat today.” Sometimes I’ll say “oh me too!” or “oh, you’re not fat.” This conversation has happened a number of times. When she or I say it, what we mean is that we’ve eaten too much or maybe we’re bloated or our clothes are too tight. It’s likely that I’m not actually fatter than the day before, but I’m more full and emotionally down on myself. It’s not a good thing to say or feel, but we do say it and we do feel it.

When you say “I feel fat,” you’re taking a huge emotional toll on your person. Studies indicate that those who feel fat will, in fact, be fat even if they aren’t when they said it. In one study, almost 60% of teenage girls who felt fat as teens were overweight (as per BMI) as adults; whereas, by the same metric about 30% of those teenage girls who did not call themselves fat as teens were overweight. The researchers suggest that this may be caused by the social stress of being perceived as fat or by unhealthy dieting methods.

It has also been suggested that the phrase “I feel fat” is insulting to those who might actually be fat. When I say it, I don’t actually think I’m fat and I know I’m not fat. Friends who view themselves as overweight or who are actually overweight might get upset. I’ve read numerous pieces by bloggers, commenters, and others ranting about friends they perceive as of normal weight “feeling fat.” This phrase takes a toll on ourselves and our relationships.

So, what can we do to stop saying it?! Psychology Today has some suggestions. I really like the suggestions to change your thoughts; just don’t think about it! Number 7 is my favorite though — “Name it.” They suggest being specific about why you feel fat. You might just be feeling guilty because you ate that piece of chocolate cake. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated because you were supposed to start your new diet today, but got pizza for lunch. Do you say it? If not, how do you catch yourself?