Friday, August 17, 2007

Some Fat Facts

Why is there a fat acceptance movement and what is the information put forth by its proponents to justify our message? For today, I just want to focus on the high level of fat self-hate and fat fear that exists in our culture.

A woman named Lindsay, who writes the blog BABble (, recently posted statistics she gathered from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the National Eating Disorders Association. This data shows just how virulent self-loathing based on size has become, particularly among the young, and the lengths to which people will go to avoid or try to get rid of fat.

Nobody is suggesting that people should go out of their way to become fat, but the facts show that desperate attempts to live up to a virtually non-existent thin ideal is much more damaging to good health than being fat per se. Accordingly, note the following:

From Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty:
* Over 50% of women say their body disgusts them (Dove Internal Study, 2002)
* The body fat of models and actresses portrayed in the media is at least 10% less than that of healthy women (British Medical Association, 2000)
* 6 out of 10 girls think they’d “be happier if they were thinner” (UK Teen Body Image Survey, January 2004)
* While only 19% of teenage girls are “overweight,” 67% think they “need to lose weight” (UK Teen Body Image Survey, January 2004)

From the National Eating Disorders Association:
* Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
* Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
* 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
* 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
* The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.
* Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (Smolak, 1996).
* 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
* 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting; 22% dieted “often” or “always” (Kurth et al., 1995).
* 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, et al., 1996).
* 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).
* 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).
* Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year (Smolak, 1996).

Not surprisingly, people who actually are fat are treated disgracefully in this climate: reviled, scorned, belittled, ridiculed, discriminated against, discounted and disrespected. Before you dismiss the concept of fat acceptance, consider the harm that prevailing values are doing to the fat and non-fat alike.

And, those of you who pride yourselves on not being taken in by the propaganda of decadent consumerism, ask yourselves this: Isn’t it possible that those who profit from the $40 billion diet industry have a vested interest in making everyone feel inadequate, insecure, unworthy and unacceptable, even if doing so requires deceit and misinformation -- not to mention constant reinforcement through advertising, marketing and the funding of "scientific studies"?

Finally, I ask women who consider themselves intelligent, liberated, self-actualized persons: Don’t you think it’s a little odd that the more that women successfully establish themselves in business, government and equitable interpersonal relationships, the more we are told to get thinner and thinner? Is it possible that a size zero is a metaphor for reducing women to nothing? Does it make sense to allow fat to be the kryptonite pressed against us to strip us of our power?

Just asking.


Anonymous said...

It sounds to me, when you say nobody is suggesting that people should go out of their way to become fat, that it's a choice.

People cannot fight their genetics, nor should they be forced to in either way. To be fat or to be thin, if it's not in their genetic makeup.

However, belive it or not there was a time in our past where being fat was considered attractive. If we lived in that culture, maybe people would go out of their way to become fat. Is that better than going out of their way to be thin?

I'm saying if you wish to make that argument, don't single out the notion that people can go out of their way to be fat. Weight due to genetics, are not a choice.

MizB said...

True, but if many of the people who shudder over every piece of food they put in their mouths started eating with abandon, they would get heavier. There are very few people who can eat whatever they like and however much they like and not gain weight. I know there are many fat people who eat moderately and in a healthy way and still get or stay fat. There are also people - like me - who, truth be told, are fat at least in part because of the way we eat. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

That's true about fat AND thin people though. There are alot of thin people who eat junk food, and never gain a pound. Then suddenly it's, "Oh no I have a health crises!"

Which is another harmful effect of the obesity campaign.

Rena said...

People should read this.