Straight talk about “fat acceptance”

Quillette has two good articles up about the need to deal with biological facts. I won’t discuss the first one here, but it’s well worth reading: “A victory for female athletes everywhere“, which lauds the new testosterone standards for competing in women’s athletics. The writer, Doriane Coleman, has plenty of cred: she’s a professor of law at Duke Law School and, in college, was a champion runner in the 800-meter event.

The other piece is the one below, which you can read by clicking on the screenshot. It’s by Canadian writer Anna Slatz, who takes issue with some aspects of the modern “fat acceptance” movement (FAM). Slatz has not only written on this topic before, but was in fact once very fat: as she says, she once weighed 300 pounds at a height of only 4’10”, a sure prescription for premature death. So she knows whereof she speaks.

Slatz’s objection to the FAM is the same as mine: by telling people that it’s okay to be obese in the sense of “not unhealthy”, it encourages people to ignore conditions that cause disease and greatly increased mortality. And it’s medically inaccurate as well, because there are tons of data showing association of obesity with diabetes, cardiovascular problems, joint issues, and so on. Slatz notes that 18% of all deaths in the U.S. are associated with obesity. To pretend that you can be “healthy at any size” is to ignore science completely.

That said, Slatz and I are both cognizant of the stigma associated with being fat. It is not okay to treat people unequally because they’re overweight. It’s not okay to call their attention to their weight and say that they need to lose weight for their own good. Nearly all of them already know that! (Except, that is, for those deluded by FAM’s claims that there’s no association of morbidity and mortality with obesity.) We should all realize how difficult it is for overweight people to lose pounds. I’ve struggled, fasting two days a week, just to lose 15 pounds or so, and that’s not anywhere near the task facing people who are obese.

It’s also undeniable that the media presents images of women who are way too skinny: many models starve themselves and even smoke to quench their appetite. Finally, doctors must be sensitive to patients and aware of the difficulties of losing weight, as well as not overlooking other conditions because of obesity. (Slatz mentions an overweight woman whose cancer wasn’t discovered until it was too late.)

But the FAM goes way beyond this. Slatz gives one example: Sonalee Rashatwar, a sort of fatness social justice warrior, who goes so far as to blame her medical problems not on her obesity, but on those who stigmatize her. To wit:

Last week, self-described queer non-binary “fat sex therapist” Sonalee Rashatwar delivered a two-hour lecture entitled Race as a Body Image Issue at the St. Olaf College Health and Wellness Center in Minnesota. The event was a master class in social justice, at times putting shame to the parodies of the genre that now traffic on social media. In the video, the visibly obese woman asks: “Is it my fatness that causes my high blood pressure—or is it my experience of weight stigma?” In the presentation, which has gone viral, Rashatwar also compared “fatphobia” not only to eugenics (which is itself absurd) but also to “Nazi science,” and declared that “a child cannot consent to being on a diet the same way a child cannot consent to having sex.” Indeed, the very titles of her recurring presentations—including Health is a Social ConstructDecolonizing Sex Positivity, Gender Isn’t Real and Neither Is Health and How Fat Queers the Body—seem like something you’d find on the Twitter feed of satirists such as Titania McGrath or Madeline Seers. Yet Rashatwar can’t be dismissed as just another social-media kook—for she is regularly invited to speak to actual health experts at numerous universities across North America, including, recently, medical students at the University of Texas. The listed speaking fee on her web site is US$5,000. (She also specifies that “travel arrangements should not be made on Sonalee’s behalf by the host organization due to her disability needs.”)

The talk at Saint Olaf is no longer online, but it’s telling that it was at the “Health and Wellness Center.”  To give a talk like the one Slatz describes at a “health and wellness center” is equivalent to telling people at such a place that it’s okay to be a heavy smoker.

Why do we have this movement? In one sense it’s laudable, for fat people have been demonized for too long. I’ve even heard that it’s a “moral weakness to be fat,” something that could be said only by someone who doesn’t know the difficulty of losing large amounts of weight. And it’s part of a new anti-bigotry movement that, fostered by the Left, is generally salubrious despite its excesses in the Regressive Left. But, unlike ethnicity or race, you can actually do something about being overweight, hard as it may be. It’s really not okay to be fat—not in the sense that you’re likely to have medical problems and a shorter life than other folks, and most people don’t want to die prematurely.

Let us not stigmatize or discriminate against those who are fat. But let’s not pretend that they’re not endangering themselves, either. We don’t have to tell them that—they already know it—but fat people shouldn’t tell other fat people that they’re perfectly fine, healthwise. It’s not up to those of us who aren’t fat to police others: such a message needs to be conveyed by those overweight people who instead give false reassurances, and to doctors, who have a responsibility to tell people the consequences of being overweight.


  1. GBJames
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink


  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    It seems to be comparable to the rich vs poor reality. Some wealthy people look down on the poor and basically blame their condition on themselves. And they do this while patting themselves on the back for being rich. Even might say they are just real smart and only received a starter loan from dad.

    Weight is a problem for many of us as PCC says and deals with all the time. People find different ways to deal with it and what you have to do is find what works for you. I think the idea of diets is not the best and many people do diets only to go back to fat in short order. To really lose the weight and keep it off requires a change in eating habits. Most of us who are type II learn this in time. If we don’t, we don’t live long. For many like me, you control the diabetes with a little help from medication but mostly with diet. What you eat and what you don’t eat becomes very important. Anyone who is a long time type II can tell you this.

    • max blancke
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Plenty of people have weight issues, and it certainly seems that you have a pretty good understanding of the struggles and issues there.
      There is also a bit of personal priorities in play. Perhaps you (the abstract you, not the personal one) like eating well, and feel your time is better spent on things other than running for three hours each day. That seems perfectly understandable.
      However, you don’t get to make those choices and also insist that everyone around you pretend that they believe you look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.
      That seems to be the general idea of what the folks in question are doing.

      Your comments reminded me of my Mom, on a couple of counts. She was a fat child, and hated it. Her solution was portion control, and running six miles a day, rain or shine. The result is that she has been a size five since 1950. But that takes a lot of dedication.

      As for the wealth thing, she fits into a different category of wealthy than the one you mentioned. Even I found it difficult to complain to her about how hard I have it, when her hands are still visibly scarred from years of picking cotton as a child. I suppose it would be the same if I were to complain to her about struggles with weight. She would no doubt answer with- “I can absolutely offer you a solution. Meet me here every morning at five am.”.

  3. Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is an important discussion to have and it sounds like a great article in Quillette.

    I swim everyday and see many people who swim or float everyday and they are still overweight. We should be giving them awards. They come, presumably, because they want to and it makes them happier. The fact that they cannot lose weight is not necessarily their fault.

    Obesity epidemic in America would take a huge hit if we invested in walking paths, bike paths, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, track fields, and parks.

    Likewise, we should honor, as role models, all people who make an effort to get off the couch and put their devices down long enough to take their stairs once in a while.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      By most measures I’m very fit for my age, or any age, and I’ve seen plenty of very accomplished athletes over the years at the gyms I’ve attended. But the people that always impressed me the most are the people with an obvious disadvantage. For example overweight people that work hard and make progress. That’s more inspiring than someone born by chance with a body predisposed to physical fitness.

      Myself, though quite fit and somewhat genetically predisposed to be so, have a tendency to put on weight. It’s really annoying. I’m almost always 10+ pounds heavier than I’d like.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      When I visited Long Island decades ago, the lack of sidewalks in many places was what I liked least.

    • aljones909
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Exercise is important for health but it’s not a primary route to losing weight. People need to consume less calories.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 10, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        It may not be the primary variable but it is a very significant one.

  4. Steve Pollard
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    “Gender Isn’t Real and Neither Is Health”. This is self-delusion taken to insanity.

    I wonder if Rashatwar would be prepared to refuse medical treatment for the diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, gall bladder disease, sleep apnoea, and all the rest of the obesity-related conditions that she is laying herself open to. If not, she is just another loudmouthed hypocrite. We’ve already got enough of those, thanks.

  5. Rita Prangle
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I lost a Facebook friend by pointing out the dangers of telling obese people that they can still be healthy.
    In his book, “The Obesity Code”, Dr. Jason Fung points out that studies have shown that 70% of people with obese parents are obese themselves, whether or not they were raised in their birth families. But he also points out that when we eat is as important as what we eat, so we need to stop the continuous eating pattern that has become so commonplace now.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      “I lost a Facebook friend…”

      Sometimes it just *doesn’t* pay to address the elephant in the room.

      Sorry. Had to be done.

  6. Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    We also seem to have lost the concept of what “a portion” means. My wife and I often will receive our restaurant meal along with a to-go box, immediately divide it in half, and make two meals out of one.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Yes, many restaurants serve double portions. I seldom finish. “Would you wrap that form please?”

      • May Loo
        Posted June 4, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I’m in Canada. It seems the US is unique because most obese/morbid obesity Americans live in the poorest areas of the country. In other countries and in past centuries, being fat is a sign of wealth, not poverty. Could it be that the fast food industry is complicit in this fat trend by enticing poor Americans with fast cheap food that is not good for them? I read a lot about the fa community complaining about the diet industry, but what about the fast food industry? Don’t they deserve to be held responsible for creating fat Americans too?

        • rickflick
          Posted June 4, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I think you are correct. Fast food is designed to “hook” you in. We crave sugar, fat, and salt. Like a drug, it can be habit forming. Advertising is also a factor. You probably eat according to socioeconomic status because if you expose kids to a variety of healthy foods (“EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!”) they are bound to gravitate toward a healthier variety later on. Now, excuse me, won’t you, while are partake of a nice bowl of French vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. 😎

    • darrelle
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Similarly my wife and I know often share meals. I’m almost always still satisfactorily full.

  7. rickflick
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I was impressed by Penn Jillette. If you google images of him you’ll see an interesting drop in weight about a year or two ago. He tells about his potatoes only diet (no toppings allowed), and swears by it.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      That’s great if it works for him. However, an all carb diet is not good for many and for a type II, no good at all.

      • Niklas
        Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        To be clear, Penn Jillette ate a potatoes only diet for a couple of weeks to reset his taste buds, according to his own account. The important part was the reseting, after having done that, he did no longer crave for the same unhealthy food. I imagine eating nothing but potatoes would be really detrimental to your health.

        • Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          … as the Irish found out in 1848.

    • max blancke
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      He is also a very large person. Teller is around 5’10”.
      Fun bragging fact- I have been on stage with them twice.

      But the problem with emulating Penn’s weight loss strategy is that very few of us have his self discipline. There are some amazing things that he does, which to me are all the more amazing because the only “trick” is to practice the move obsessively for a decade or two.

      Sort of the modern equivalent of the trick of holding your hand right over a flame.

    • Bob
      Posted May 10, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      I bought Penn’s book and lost 65 pounds in less than nine months. The potato and vegetable diet he outlines worked for me because it is an easy form of portion control and thereby calorie control.

      I ate a baked, microwaved, potato for lunch and a potato and a small package of frozen vegetables for dinner/supper each day. No alcohol or sodas. Club soda only.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 10, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        Congratulations. I hope you continue to do well. I assume you plan to widen your diet after you’ve reached your goal? There must be some risk in that.

  8. Dean
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I think the fat acceptance movement is a natural counterpoint to fat shaming, and would quickly run out of fuel if it weren’t for the fact that fat shamers are often insufferable dicks about it.

    As usual, Jerry takes a thoughtful and pragmatic approach. If it were universal, there would be no need of a FAM. We would treat people with respect regardless of their weight, we’d keep our damn mouths shut when we interact with obese people, and they wouldn’t have a movement of folks lying to them that their weight has no negative consequences.

    • A C Harper
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Quite so. Some people are fat because they are greedy. But many others are fat because of their metabolism, genetics, illness, chronic stress, social pressures, chronic poor quality (but oh so yummy) food choices, lack of physical exercise (for many reasons), psychological issues and so on.

      Unless you know all the factors involved for each individual fat shaming is just greedist. It may be true, but mostly not.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I think that even if all fat shaming disappears, the fat acceptance movement will still prosper, as long as doctors talk about the harm of being overweight.

  9. JezGrove
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Just for balance, here’s an FAM advocate, Danish comedian Sofie Hagen, arguing her case on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour recently (0:53 minutes in):

  10. Katherine Mechling, M.D.
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    This needs a human evolution perspective. I think telling people to eat less is like telling a teenage boy to stop thinking about sex.
    Our ancestors who found weight loss easy probably did not contribute to the gene pool as much as those who can lower their metabolism and keep weight on.
    also, there is something going on in the microbiome which contributes to obesity.
    It’s all so complicated.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Some people have strong will and succeed to keep their weight down. But I agree with you that many do not. I suppose that if humanity does not go to hell, alleles suited for our current situation (enough food) will be selected and overweight will become less common.

      • Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        It’s not (necessarily) a question of strong will. If it were, heavy people would necessarily be weak-willed. And that’s not true. (Someone in my life is large and used to be much larger; she’s as strong-willed as ever.) Life is complicated. Getting the diet/exercise balance right is hard, especially in life with so many other things going on.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      Polynesians are susceptible to obesity because their ancestors couldn’t spare a single calorie on the limited resource islands they colonized.

  11. Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    The attitude that fat is a choice is amazing

    I am the opposite of the subject here, I didn’t lose any weight, I was a perfect 110 size zero until I had a TBI that damaged my pituitary, at which point I put on weight at the glacial rate of 15lbs a year and suffering myriad health problems because I was no longer making hormones that I needed to survive.

    I am now, over 30 years later, double my original size, I have had brain surgery to try to repair damage but it was mostly unsuccessful, I did lose about 50lbs post op because a tiny amount of damage was repaired/removed.

    Weight is not a choice, weight is governed by hormones, which control our metabolism.

    I had no choice in being thin and more than I have a choice now about being obese.

    The sad fact is that doctors, like most people, still think it’s about eating to much and not moving enough, which is nothing but nonsense, calories in vs calories out sounds great but it does not apply to humans, it’s literally like saying all cars get the same gas mileage, and we all know that is not true.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      The doctors’ advice may be difficult to impossible for many people to keep, but it does apply to humans and is not nonsense. The human body is not autotrophic, neither is it a perpetuum mobile. Every single molecule of fat inside it is derived from molecules swallowed with food. And every single human, if deprived of food, will lose weight.

      • Dave
        Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        “Weight is not a choice, weight is governed by hormones, which control our metabolism.”

        So, if your metabolism and hormonal make-up inclines you to gaining weight, you can counteract that by eating less and/or taking more exercise.

        As Mayamarkov points out, the human body cannot make biomass out of nothing – only from the food that you eat. That isn’t fat-shaming, it’s the First Law of Thermodynamics.

        • Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          Again, no it doesn’t mean starvation will work

          the less you eat, the more deranged the metabolism becomes, the more fat is stored etc

          You misunderstanding of nutrition and endocrinology is pretty common, and dangerous

          When I weighed 110lbs I ate at least 50% more than I do now, and that is because of my deranged metabolism and hormone imbalances/deficits, not because I eat too much and move to little

          • max blancke
            Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            Do you believe that in the respect to metabolism and fat storage, we are biologically very different than those of our grandparent’s generation?
            I suppose it could be livestock hormones or the like, but I have doubts.

            Yes, your body is very adaptive. But not infinitely so. I read your comment to the acknowledged expert on the subject sitting here on the couch with me. She shook her head, and told me that she recently encountered someone with similar views, who is facing the real threat of an amputated foot as the price for living by those beliefs.

            Of course some people, perhaps even yourself, have damaged systems that simply cannot be balanced through normal techniques and result in normal results. But such people are a tiny percentage of the population. The solutions to issues faced by a person with a damaged hypothalamus are not applicable to the population at large. Just like the therapies needed to help a person walk after a foot amputation are not going to be helpful to those who are still bipedal.

            • Dave
              Posted May 10, 2019 at 5:35 am | Permalink

              “the less you eat, the more deranged the metabolism becomes, the more fat is stored etc”

              I’m trying to be polite here, but that’s just a bizarre claim. I don’t think obesity was a problem for the inmates of Belsen in 1945, or for the Ethiopian peasants of 1985. No matter how “deranged” your metabolism may be, you cannot put on weight unless you ingest more calories than you expend. If you can prove otherwise, I think you’re on course for a Nobel prize.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      I hate to be disagreeable, but it absolutely is “calories in – calories out”. What happens to the inbound calories can vary a lot from person to person but nobody who tries to survive on a diet of water and sunshine is going to gain weight.

      Maintaining a healthy weight is harder for some people than others. And it is easier at some times in our lives than at others. But no weight can be gained without eating food and insufficient food consumption will always lead to weight loss.

      Hormones, gut microbes, and all of the rest of it is important. But so is what and how much one eats. The fact that cars get different mileage doesn’t obviate the fact that cars require gas and will not go far on an empty tank. (EV’s excepted, of course.)

      • eric
        Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        It’s not quite that simple. Your metabolism changes as you lose weight. For reasonable diets (i.e. less calories in than your body uses, but not anything close to starvation), you can eat the exact same healthy diet every day, do the exact same amount of exercise every day, and after a weight loss typically between 10 and 20 pounds, your weight loss will slow and then stop. You will then have to do more extreme dieting or exercises to keep that weight loss on pace.

        This is why most weight loss plans can claim an average loss of 10 or 15 pounds: because for most overweight people in between 5′ and 6′, that first 10-15 pounds is easy…then it gets really hard. They are, in essence, tricking you, because the success they are claiming is no better than what you could do with just about any reasonable diet and exercise program…and no more than that.

        • GBJames
          Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          Nobody is claiming that it isn’t hard. I know this personally. That’s not the point. I’m objecting to the claim that “calories in-calories out” is irrelevant. It isn’t. The basic laws of physics prevail.

    • aljones909
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      You can’t argue in generalities from a particular case. People are fat because thet are consuming too many calories. It is as simple as that (though the solution may be difficult).

    • Deodand
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      In some ways it reminds me of the early-Internet birth of the Pro-Anorexia movement, one of their rallying cries what that what they were doing to their bodies was ‘just a lifestyle choice’. Thankfully the consequences of that choice were sufficiently scary to cause widespread revulsion, the movement was quickly pushed to the fringe where it remains.

      This new movement on the other hand is not so obviously dangerous to the believers, even the ones that believe that being grossly overweight is a progressive political act, that they can skate around them in a way the Pro-Anorexia movement could not.

      • Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        Did you know that there are theories about that?

        Did you know that if you give an anorexic a shot of insulin they will become hungry and eat?

        The theories centered on a lack of either insulin or am inhibited response to insulin, or somewhere in that neighborhood. Insulin is the hunger hormone, it makes us hungry, even if we are full, so hunger dis-regulation in anorexics could be an insulin problem at heart.

        I do not suffer from any eating disorders so I haven’t really kept up on it, but I do see a lot of info on it in my hormone groups because people will do just about anything to not be fat.

        Which is really sad

  12. max blancke
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    It is a basic worldview that I find absurd.
    Not just the “fat acceptance” thing, but several related concepts as well.

    Obese people almost universally know that their condition is unhealthy and likely off-putting to desired sexual partners. Those folks also know that putting the donut down and taking the stairs is a start to the real solution to the problem.
    But what is happening instead seems almost pathological to me. Instead of making those personal changes, they instead choose to police other’s language and ultimately, their thoughts. It is an impressively Stalinist tactic.

    The ‘shaming” part of the issue can be addressed through the application of basic good manners.

    Similarly, men who wish that they were women have chosen to redefine womanhood so that they can be included. Of course that devalues those for whom actual womanhood is a valued attribute.

    Most of the concepts that they are trying to redefine are based on observable realities, which are not actually going to be changed. No matter how strongly you believe that your obesity does not affect your health, you are still going to hit that wall eventually.
    We had a thing in the Corps called a “confidence course” It can give you confidence. But first, it separates you from any delusions you might have about your abilities.
    It is a useful experience, and would do the fat acceptance people a world of good, in more than one sense.

    But honestly, even that is under attack. The physical and emotional standards we were held to in the old days are being redefined as well, to accommodate candidates who would otherwise wash out spectacularly. In the end, it devalues the achievement.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    To give a talk like the one Slatz describes at a “health and wellness center” is equivalent to telling people at such a place that it’s okay to be a heavy smoker.

    Like opening a speakeasy at a temperance convention, like handing out condoms at a convent.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Like a screen door in a submarine. Just thought I would throw that one in too.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        [something]-ist joke:

        Q. How do you sink an Irish submarine?
        A. Knock on the hatch.


    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      “Like opening a speakeasy at a temperance convention, like handing out condoms at a convent.”

      Some news articles I’ve read recently indicate that certain priests are having sex with females in convents, some of whom become pregnant and may have been forced to have an abortion so maybe handing out condoms would be useful there.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 10, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        I’m against anyone forcing anyone else to do a goddamn thing when it comes to sex or reproduction, Rowena, but no doubt better for priests and nuns to be poking each other than the children under their charge.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      “like handing out condoms at a convent.”

      Some news articles I’ve read recently indicate that certain priests are having sex with females in convents, some of whom become pregnant and may have been forced to have an abortion so maybe handing out condoms would be useful there.

  14. Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I second this as a bit of a chubster myself (and a smoker to boot). I know these things are unhealthy (and I do try and lose weight sometimes, though it’s a seesaw) but I wouldn’t dream of pretending that being overweight is a social construct or whatever. That’s just irresponsible.

    I’m happy enough the way I am, aware of the risks, but not trying to justify them with silly, even dangerous, ideas. I shan’t force others to smoke or eat too much, and equally I shan’t be saying these things aren’t harmful to living a healthy and long life. I’ll live how I want, aware of the risks and believing, on balance, that the pleasure these bad habits give me outweigh the dangers to my health (though this is always open to revision). But to pretend that they aren’t unhealthy and aren’t risky is absurd.

    Though I will say the puritanical attitudes to smoking annoy me. Pub life is just not the same. When I was in Crete, where they flout smoking bans, I really enjoyed lighting up in the pubs, clubs and restaurants, and nobody else bothered. Not that others should have to put up with smoke, of course, but is it really so terrible to have, say, an indoor smoking space where those of us who yearn for dim rooms with smoke curling into the air above can congregate for a drink and a death stick or two?

    • Adam M.
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I abhor smoke, but I largely agree with you about the pubs. I’m not a fan of trying to segregate smoky air from non-smoky air indoors, since that rarely works, but I don’t see why we can’t have smoking and non-smoking bars. People who smoke can visit and work at the former; people who don’t can go to the latter. It seems like non-smokers just wanted to force their way on everybody…

      • Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that would be a compromise, or even just sections in bars. I know a few people who’ve told me they aren’t smokers and don’t like it but do see the romantic appeal of the smoky bars you see in old movies and TV. Though I certainly wouldn’t advocate a return to the times when, upon opening the door to go into a pub, you’d be hit by an impenetrable fog of cigarette, cigar, and even pipe smoke (not that I’m old enough to have experiences those days myself, but I’ve heard stories).

      • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        This is because many smokers, when given the opportunity, force their way on everybody. Throughout my youth, whenever I sat with friends at a cafe from October through March, there was thick, grey-blue smoke. In warmer months, the smoke was thinner because of the open windows but still existed. In planes, the meter-wide lane between the left and right rows of seats was proclaimed as “separating smokers from non-smokers”.

        When my country first joined the EU and had to introduce smoking bans wherever children were present, things became even worse. To keep smoking patrons, businesses banned children. My family been ordered out of restaurants because of our sons. Once this happened in a small town we were visiting, where there was no other decent open restaurant. I gloated when I recently was there again and saw that the restaurant had gone bankrupt.

  15. Adam M.
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I think the real victory for female athletes would be to stop allowing males to compete against them. It seems very strange to define a female with naturally high testosterone as not a female while defining males as females as long as they identify as female and have testosterone “in the [normal] female range”. While current testosterone level has a significant effect, it’s not everything, especially if somebody grew up as a male with male testosterone levels. They don’t suddenly lose all that physical ability gained in the past just because you drop their testosterone levels a week before the race.

    The ruling is likely a response to Caster Semenya, who is a male and has much of the physical advantages of being a male, despite an intersex condition, and should be expected to compete with the other males.

    The obvious approach to protect female sports is “no males allowed”.

    • aljones909
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      I’d agree. Caster Semenya isn’t female in any biological sense. She has XY chromosome make up but had a developmental problem which prevented the normal formation of male genitalia.
      The ruling required her to reduce her testosterone to a level which us still more than SEVEN times the average for female Olympic athletes. Very lenient. He/she should be competing with males.
      Note: Caster Semenya and the other two medal winners at the last Olympics were intersex individuals.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      As the article observes, the testosterone rule is a simple way to achieve that in practice.

      • aljones909
        Posted May 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t achieve that. Biological males (as defined by chromosomes) can still compete with a testosterone level that is 7x greater than the average for a female Olympic competitor.

        • Posted May 10, 2019 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          That’s a problem.

  16. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    There are good indications that obesity and DM II are related in no small way to the gut microbiome.
    The most effective way to treat DM II is a stomach bypass. These patients normalise their glycaemia within days, and they change their gut microbiota within days, well before they start losing weight. (Note there may also be an endocrinic factor playing a role, the gut -particularly ‘Peyers plates’- is an endocrine organ.
    There is still a lot to be researched here, from low carb diets (such as the much maligned ‘paleo diet’) to poo transplants.

    • Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Low-carb diets have their own complication, however. A friend of mine had DM II and kidney insufficiency. He complains that both his conditions require diets, and the two diets are incompatible. At least he understands perfectly why, because he is a doctor.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    From Rashatwar at St. Olaf’s: “… I will never use food moralism to tell you to replace foods you love with foods you hate.”

    I understand that not all people care for all foods, and à chacun son goût when it comes to that.

    But I don’t get food “hate.” Maybe it’s because I’m one of the world’s least picky eaters. I mean, beets are about the only thing that’s not really to my taste (unless they’re sautéed in duck fat, but then I’ll eat anything sautéed in duck fat), but beetroots would have to stalk me by showing up unbidden outside my home and office, would have to threaten my children, would have to drive me to the brink of taking out a restraining order, before I’d go so far as to say I “hate” them, or any other food for that matter.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      I’m a picky eater. Many things I won’t eat. Most seafood, most varieties of meat, many vegetables.

      This is probably why, despite my fondness for sweet sugary things, I’m only very slightly overweight.

      I think the plus-es (not being significantly overweight) outweigh the minus-es (often being unable to find a single thing on a menu that I like).


      • GBJames
        Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        I doubt that it is your avoidance of seafood and vegetables are what contributes to not being heavier.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, my love of seafood and vegetables is what attribute with helping me keep my girlish figure. 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          I wouldn’t disagree with that, I just mentioned my dislike of seafood and veggies as an incidental point, though it does factor into reducing my calorie/carbohydrate/whatever intake. It probably contributes to my feeling that being slightly hungry is no big deal and I don’t have to instantly gorge myself.

          I’m sure my dislike of most meats, especially fatty, is a factor though.


          • GBJames
            Posted May 10, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

            That I will grant you.

  18. Posted May 9, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Doctors are now learning of the harmful effects of going on diets, losing weight and gaining the weight and more, because of the bodies reaction back. The body rests its weight point after weight loss. The harmful effects of a repeated pattern of loses and gains is worse than maintaining too much weight.
    That puts doctors in a bind on his to accuse patients.

    Family and friends of overweight people have to be careful what they say also. People already know they need to lose weight and have low self esteem. Pointing it out to them generally just makes it worse.

  19. TJR
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    As so often, this was all satirised 40 years ago, this time by NTNON. (Apologies in advance if it embeds).

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      It did imbed, but it’s classic NTNON.

      Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones, Pamela Stephenson and Rowan Atkinson in great form.


  20. dabertini
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Sadly the only effective treatment for obesity is bariatric surgery. At best the positive effects of dietary intervention last 4 to 5 years.

  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    “It is not okay to treat people unequally because they’re overweight.”

    Except in cases where it’s physically relevant. I’m sure as hell going to complain if a super-fat person is seated next to me on a plane. Let them buy two seats.

    (Actually, I’ve only ever encountered such a person once. It was on a short flight in the Cook Islands, in a Embraer Bandeirante – single seats each side of a single aisle, with three narrow seats across the back. He occupied all three. He was actually a hell of a nice guy. I still wouldn’t want to sit next to him on a long airline flight though).


    • Posted May 10, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Will you require someone with diabetes insipidus to also do so? If so, why? (This strays into the ‘free will’ stuff.) If not, will you require someone big to demonstrate that they are so suffering in order to get the treatment of someone smaller?

  22. eric
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    “a child cannot consent to being on a diet the same way a child cannot consent to having sex.”

    I feel for poor families who struggle to put healthy food on the table. And I think they need our support. I really think one way to curb America’s obesity epidemic is more money in programs like snap, and developing better similar programs to ensure every family has enough money to afford healthy food. Which, I admit, can be a lot more expensive than carb staples like pasta, rice, etc.

    But for middle- and upper- class families, there is little excuse why their kids shouldn’t have been eating healthy types and amounts of food to begin with. Instead of waiting until you’re forced to substitute fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat for their burgers, ice cream, and pizza, you should’ve been feeding them fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat to begin with. I’m no food teetotaler; my kid likes pizza and ice cream the same as any other, and he gets it….at a relatively rare treat though, not as daily fare.


    I have mixed feelings about fat shaming. Certainly it’s inappropriate in many contexts, like work or public. But as an overweight person, I really have no problem if my good friends and family tell me in private when they think I’m putting on more weight. I don’t think shame describes what I feel in such cases so much as self-consciousness, but yeah that could count as mile shame I guess. But they’re input makes me introspect about my habits, and whether they’re bad. It may spur me to do more. They are my friends and family…and I want them to be honest to me when I’m engaging in self-destructive behavior. Overeating and not exercising may be different in degree from over drinking or other bad habits, but I still want to share my life with people who are truthful to me about when I increase bad habit behavior.

  23. Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Another recent Quillette article on another subject mentions feminist Roxane Gay. At 400 lbs., Gay requires special arrangements and seating for her appearances. Gay has written about how her overeating was triggered by a sexual assault as a girl. While that is a common response to severe trauma, it is also a very unhealthy one, both physically and mentally. Despite a bevy of physical ailments, Gay flaunts her morbid obesity and orders society to embrace it. Critics of her dangerous FA message have been accused by her defenders of condoning rape.

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    That was a very good link to Dorian Coleman’s article on intersex athletes.

    That article links to another interesting one on Renee Richards:

    who competed as a woman tennis player at 40 but says that, if she had transitioned at 20, she wouldn’t have competed because she would have just had too much advantage.


  25. Kelly Greene
    Posted May 10, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I think Coleman has a good argument for not allowing transgender women (who were born biologically male)to enter into the women’s category. I don’t think she deals with the complexity of intersex conditions however, which is what the IAAF ruling was about. Some intersex conditions may have XY chromosomes but not be sensitive to testosterone at all or only partially sensitive to testosterone. I don’t believe the IAAF ruling dealt with this complexity. Also, the ruling leaves a lot to be desired in that it only dealt with specific events. If Semenya can’t compete in the 800m, but can compete in the women’s 5000m event, there is a glaring inconsistency. I’m sure the IAAF will be dealing with this issue for many years to come.

    On the fat shaming article, I really don’t think there are many people out there who are overweight who actually think this is healthy for them. Even fewer, who don’t want to lose the weight. There may be people advocating for the belief that there is “health at any size” but given that there is a billion dollar weight loss industry, I don’t think there is any danger there that this message is going to resonate with many people. I do think that society still needs to work on stopping fat shaming people and I hope that good work continues there. I believe that people do need to take personal responsibility for their health and weight, but playing the blame game helps no one. Understanding why we eat the way we do is a valuable part of trying to change. Obesity continues to rise and if this was just about people being lazy, it would not be a societal epidemic. I highly suggest Stephan Guyenet’s book “The Hungry Brain”. He also has a website that is worth checking out

  26. Nicholas K.
    Posted May 10, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I was astonished by Slatz’s previous article regarding her own obesity. She writes about how she spent entire paychecks in a matter of days on junk food binges and eating so much in a single episode that it caused her physical pain. This is not, I think, the typical experience of the average overweight or even obese American. She needed help –psychiatric help. I don’t know what kind of life event caused her to try and cope via food the way she did, but I think it should be regarded as a symptom of a very serious deeper issue, which remains unexplained. I hope she got treatment for that.

  27. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 12, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ve even heard that it’s a “moral weakness to be fat,” something that could be said only by someone who doesn’t know the difficulty of losing large amounts of weight.

    It may be something like that for gaining weight though, if – arguably, of course – only 8 % of the trait is tied to genetics.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 12, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Maybe I should add that, due to an accident followed by an infection, I have experienced loosing mass from being in the high mortality group down to normal mortality.

      And continuing from there, thus far. It was enough to start eating and training regularly on work days.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 12, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Experienced having to loosing mass …

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