ANTM – First “Full-Figured” Winner

Ok, I admit, America’s Next Top Model is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love fashion (even if most of it excludes women of my size) and I’m an amateur photographer, so it has a lot going for it as far as guilty pleasures go. All that said, it’s still a modeling show and still has a lot of the drawbacks of the modeling industry as a whole.

“Full-figured” or “plus-sized” models have not fared well on the show. They have had token representation, but it’s been tokenism at its worst. There is usually one girl per season, and that one is usually a size 6 at most. Last season, Sarah Banks Hartshorn lost a whopping 3-1/2 pounds, which dropped her from the “plus” designation, and the judges (who included Twiggy, a woman who made even Fran Drescher insecure about her tiny body) decided that she was too small for plus size modeling, and too large for anything else. Thus she was eliminated for being too small and too large at the same time!

As much as I love Whitney (and wish that they had left her as a brunette, as I thought it suited her better), when it got down to her, Fatima, and Anya, I felt sure that the two willowy women would be chosen for the Donatella Versace runway show. If nothing else, I figured (pardon the pun) that the dresses would be in “model sizes” and that Whitney would be eliminated for that reason, if for nothing else. I was pleasantly shocked when the two chosen were Whitney and Anya. I had thought for weeks that Anya, who won four challenges to Whitney’s three, would win the competition.

All through the cycle, the judges had accused her of coming across as phony. Last night Paulina Porizkova called her a ham. I was shocked when Miss J, who I tend to find nauseatingly smug and who tends to be very uncomplimentary of the “plus sized” models, came to her defense saying that she probably developed the facade to deal with the fat stigma she’s experienced. My jaw dropped, not only that weight stigma was being addressed as having negative consequences, but that it was Miss J making the observation. Tyra promptly stuck a pin in Jay’s theory by saying “but this is modeling…in the real world she’s just a hot girl.” I found this comment both comforting (in its implied condemnation of modeling standards) and unsettling in its dismissiveness of Whitney’s stated experience of always being “the fat girl”.

Jezebel has the Cycle 10 season from soup to nuts.

I have fantasies of an entire “Plus Size” cycle. I’m not talking size 6 or 8 “plus” sizes, either. I’m talking a minimum size of, say, an American 22. They could have Velvet D’Amour as the season’s fourth judge. I know that there’s about as much chance of that’s happening as there is of Piggy Moo‘s winning the 2008 Grammy, but a girl can dream…

In the meantime, please excuse me while I take a moment to do a little happy dance that the size 00 didn’t turn out to be the default winner, yet again.

Cyber Crush of the Day

I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for those who recognize bigotry for what it is when they see it, and even more so for those who battle against it. It’s especially crush-worthy when it’s someone who’s trying to change a societal paradigm that is harmful to our children. Jeff Dinelli, at The Left Coaster is one such person. His sixth grade daughter’s phys ed class is involved in a class project that included counting calories and calculating “ideal” weights for these youths. I don’t know about you, but I find the concept of an “ideal weight,” especially one that doesn’t take body composition (bone size/density, muscle mass, etc.) into consideration, not only unrealistic and appalling, but unconscionable.

Given that many of these school “nutrition awareness” and anti-obesity programs do more harm than good to our children, they don’t work, and anorexia is being diagnosed in children as young as five, maybe it’s time to consider a different approach to teaching nutrition and physical fitness. It’s time to get across that “survival of the fittest” is not synonymous with “survival of the buffest.”

Now, setting aside the fact that these kids are entering puberty and need fat and sugar for their bodies to develop properly, we are setting them up for disordered relationships with food at the very least and quite possibly full-blown eating disorders as well as depression and stress diseases. Sixth graders, at the verge of adulthood but not there yet, are practically obsessed with fitting in with their peer groups. If a teacher makes obsessing about their bodies a class assignment, said teacher is throwing alcohol gel onto an inferno.

Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently performed a survey study to assess attitudes about the obese.

The study surveyed 4,283 individuals and discovered an alarming trend: to avoid being obese, people would be willing to give up a year of life, get divorced, be unable to have children, develop alcoholism, or become severely depressed. The survey also examined subconscious attitudes toward obesity and found that, regardless of their age or body weight, participants strongly associated fat people with negative traits, such as laziness and stupidity, while associating thin people with positive traits. Dr. Schwartz and her colleagues found that overweight participants thought poorly of themselves, making weight loss even harder to achieve and adding to a growing body of research that shows the striking prevalence and pervasiveness of weight-based stigma.

Even obesity doctors, who should know better, are likely to associate words like “lazy” “stupid,” and “worthless” to their fat patients. What chance does a sixth grader have to avoid assimilating these biases when they’re taught in grade school?

Hope for decreasing Fat Stigma?

This morning’s New York Times has an article about a new bill passed by Congress “that would prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes.”

As there are many genes known to be associated with obesity, it’s only a matter of time until size discrimination is covered under this law. Let’s hope that it’s sooner, rather than later.

Reliable Sources

A few minutes ago, a friend sent me a short article on “metabolic syndrome” by Nicholas Bakalar (as, I believe, it appeared in the New York Times) asking “what do you think?” Being familiar with Sandy’s take on it, I shot back “I think it’s a load of crap.” My friend replied “If you Google “metabolic syndrome” + “diet soda” you find thousands of hits. Most discuss this “finding” or earlier reports. Disbelieve what you will, but NIH, while calling for further research, does not dismiss the findings out-of-hand” and provided a link to the NIH article about it.

I pointed out that he had asked for my opinion and that I wasn’t going to debate the issue, but I was really taken aback by the number of Google hits’ being used as support for the argument. Google “jews greedy” (a completely offensive stereotype) and you get just shy of a million hits. Google “cell phone cancer” and you get almost 2 million hits, that doesn’t actually mean that cell phones cause cancer. (“EMF cancer” garners thousands as well, even though that has been fairly thoroughly debinked.) “Weight loss diet exercise” gets over a million hits, but if all it took to lose weight were diet and exercise, most of us would be slender.

As for it’s being touted by NIH, so is bariatric surgery for teens. They also buy into the whole “childhood obesity” mania. That pretty much loses them any credibility as far as I’m concerned.

Teaspoon Fat Activism

I absolutely adore everybody over at Shakesville, especially its founder, Melissa McEwan, who is a goddess. She talks about feminism being achieved a teaspoon at a time. I love the concept and feel that those of us in the Fat Acceptance movement (I originally wrote “Fact Acceptance.” I suspect a Freudian slip there.) are armed with snuff spoons. I’m not one of those who believe that fat is the “last acceptable prejudice;” however, I do believe that western society (and more and more non-western societies) have almost completely bought into the thin == health concept. Tell that to the Ramos Family. Tell that to 300-lb triathlete Sarah.

Everybody remembers that the CDC claimed that obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death (after smoking) and is responsible for 400,000 deaths a year. Almost no one outside of the FA movement knows that the method used to calculate that number was to attribute every death of anyone with a BMI greater than 25 to “overweight or obesity.” That includes those who died at 95 and those hit by busses. None of the “obeeeeeeesity is eeeeeevil” crowd remembers that the CDC recanted that number, reducing it to 25,000. Even that number is suspect, as there is no way to prove that weight was causative in a single one of those deaths, rather than merely correlative. The CDC site also lists several death statistics that are definitely causative:

Mortality

  • All unintentional injury deaths: 112,012
  • Unintentional fall deaths: 18,807
  • Unintentional poisoning deaths: 20,950
  • Motor vehicle traffic deaths: 44,933

I doubt that those raising a hue and cry about the Obeeeeeeesity Epidemic would sit quietly by while cars were outlawed, even though auto accidents are provably the cause for almost twice as many deaths as are attributed (without proof of causation) to fat. Even if one assumes that “all unintentional injury deaths” include “all unintentional fall/poisoning/motor vehicle deaths” there are still four and a half times the number of unintentional injury deaths than deaths attributed to obesity. If those categories are not inclusive, they account for for almost eight times the number of deaths attributed to obesity. Even if some of those deaths were suicides and erroneously called accidents and all the deaths attributed to obesity are actually causative, an American is still several times more likely to die in an accident than of complications of his/her weight.

What actually triggered this post is a co-worker of mine. He doesn’t really have enough to do to keep him busy, so he tends to wander over to our area to chat. He has a degree in nutrition and reads most of what comes out about it. He’s a big believer in vitamin supplements and seems borderline orthorexic to me. He noticed the bag on my desk, which had mango, a salad consisting of cucumber, tomato, and avocado, two pints of orange juice and a quart of half and half in it. I also have a container of dried apricots on my desk. He commented that the half and half ruined my having only “healthy” things on my desk. (I guess he didn’t notice the sugar that I keep for my tea.) I did comment that the reason I buy the quart is that it’s the only size my gas station sells, but it kind of irritated me that he was assessing the halthfulness of my food choices. (Healthfulness of food choices being a topic that he frequently waxes on about ad nauseum.)

He commented that he’s reading a book about “super metabolism,” advocating it’s take on life. I commented that I don’t believe any study unless I can see the raw data. We chatted for a bit, and I mentioned that weight is almost as inheritable as height. He refused to believe this saying something to the effect of “it’s got to be more complicated than that.” (Don’t you love how it’s always “complicated” if it supports genetic causes of fatness, but calories in/calories out is simple personified?) At this point, I told him that I didn’t want to talk about it because I was never going to convince him and he was never going to convince me, so it’s better if we just drop it. He replied that there are people who are fat because “it’s their own fault.” I repeated that I didn’t want to talk about it. He made another “but…” statement, and I (in a really pissy tone) repeated that I didn’t want to talk about it. He looked all hurt and offended and just walked away.

I thank Kate and Paul and Mo Pie & Weetabix and Joy and Marianne (I hope that I spelled that right) and Fat Fu & Meowser and Rachel and Sandy and Paul Campos and Gina Kolata and many, many more for my being able to do that. I still hate it that I am deemed defective by society but, with their help and inspiration, I’ve come a long way toward being able to tell society to bite me in the past couple of years.

Off the Reservation

I was watching The McLaughlin Group yesterday and one of the group commented that one of the candidates tended to “go off the reservation.” I don’t know about you, but I find that phrase highly offensive on many levels. Primarily, it implies that people have defined places in which they must remain. I find that very concept objectionable, but when one adds the historical reality of “reservations,” it’s not only unconscionably racist framing, it’s also classist.

In this context, the commenter was talking about veering from the political party’s platform and saying stupid crap while on the campaign trail. Now, I’m no happier than anyone when a politician opens his/her mouth before engaging his/her brain, but surely she could have found a less vile term with which to make her point.

Keisha Morgan

Army Spc. Keisha M. Morgan, 25, Washington, D.C., died [February 22] in Baghdad of a non-combat related cause; assigned to the Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Spc. Keisha Morgan

Yet again, the Army is sweeping the mysterious death of a female soldier under the rug. Keisha’s mother, Diana, (who is a friend of mine) has been told that the Army “doesn’t know” how Keisha died. Keisha’s best friend, Ruby, found her on the floor of their Baghdad barracks, having a seizure, but responsive. She died, according to WTOP news, “a short time later.”

Diana says that she spoke to Keisha less than a week before she died. Keisha was a 25-year-old in the peak of health who had just reenlisted (excited to be going “from green to gold”) and was as happy as she had ever been. She was engaged to a wonderful young man working as a civilian contractor in Iraq. He was visiting family in (IRRC) Puerto Rico when she died. He was interrogated for about four hours. I hope that was just information gathering abouther friends, routine, etc., but I’m not sanguine about that.

In spite of almost a month’s time and two autopsies, Keisha’s cause of death is still “unknown.” Her fiance and mother wanted to have an independent autopsy performed but were informed by the Army that her brain and heart had been removed because of the ongoing “investigation,” so another autopsy would be pointless. Am I the only one who finds that the teensiest bit suspect? If they suspected drugs or epilepsy or anything else innocuous, wouldn’t they just say so?

Also, Diana has been told that, in its infinite wisdom, the Army has a regulation that in the event of the death of a soldier whose parents are divorced, said soldier’s possessions go to the older of the two parents. In Keisha’s case that would be her father. The rub is that he abandoned his wife and his two children when Keisha was four. He saw her once again when she was five, at which time he dropped by his former mother-in-law’s house and asked to speak to the children on the front porch. Five minutes later, all three were gone. They were found at Mr. Morgan’s mother’s house. Had Diana pressed kidnapping charges, her ex would have been in deep kimchee. As she is an extremely kind and lovely woman, she didn’t. In the following years, he avoided paying child support to the tune of $150,000, while Diana and her family have eked by. He is suspected of having been successful in avoiding being found by stealing the identities of two men with his name who had died in childhood. His trial for those thefts is pending, and yet, the military is still determined to send all of Keisha’s personal effects (those that they haven’t lost, like two gold necklaces, that is) to him, rather than to her mother, who raised her. Fortuanately, Diana’s congressman stepped in and overruled the Army regs, but she still hasn’t seen her daughter’s things and the Army is still fighting the decision because, of course, regs are infinitely more important than the fact that Keisha was known to have hated the man who abandoned her and to adore her mother.

So, US Army WTP is going on?

UPDATE:

I spoke with Diana this morning. There is apparently still no official cause of death, but Maryland State Congressman Chris Van Holland (D) stepped in and ensured that Diana received Keisha’s personal effects. The last of them arrived this week. She will also apparently be receiving all of the back years’ child support with interest and penalties. Given that her ex has been making approximately $200k/year, it’s a shame she wasn’t able to re-negotiate the child support amount, but she’s happy to be getting anything. Not, of course, that it will make up for the loss of her daughter.

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