Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fat in the Land of Oz

Pictured above is singer Kelly Clarkson, recently described by someone on You Tube as “a big fat pig.” This is what’s considered fat in America, a country that not too long ago managed to come up with a size 0 for women. I regard this as more of a political slam than a fashion statement, an anti-feminist backlash intended to intimidate women who may have forgotten to obsess about their body size for a minute and think about reproductive rights and equal pay and voter suppression and the economy instead. But our fat-loathing culture asks: “Who do these broads think they are, waddling around, offending everyone’s sensibilities instead of focusing on becoming a size 0” – (a literal nothing!). And of course, if your size is a two-digit number you’re obese and shouldn’t even leave the house (for shame!).

There are other things I could write about today: Team America in the World Cup; Dick Cheney everywhere on TV as if he were releasing a new album; how we shouldn’t even dip our military toe into that sectarian quagmire in Iraq; or the Supreme Court striking down a law that said people protesting outside abortion clinics had to keep a 35-foot distance away from patients entering the clinic (because those ignorant, heartless, slut-baby-killers deserve to be harassed up close before they do one of the most difficult things in their lives).

But no, I prefer to revisit last week’s chastisement of Dr. Oz by the U.S. Senate, which has nothing better to do than lambast the host of an afternoon health information talk show for describing two dietary supplements in what Oz admitted was “flowery language.” He hailed them as magical and miraculous – two words that any adult would take literally. The Senate was worried that the now-famous “Dr. Oz Effect” would encourage millions of fat-obsessed women to run out and buy this shit without knowing what the dangers might be! 

Now, it’s true that dietary supplements, from vitamins to magic weight loss elixirs, are greatly under-regulated, but so are numerous prescription medications that have so many horrific side effects you can’t imagine what medical condition would warrant taking them. Yet doctors can freely prescribe them as they see fit. What doctors are stringently regulated in prescribing are “controlled substances,” also known as serious meds that stop pain, ease anxiety, help you sleep, or just make you feel good. Which is why, after an agonizing major surgery, you’re offered Tylenol.

But I digress. The real issue here is that after 40 years of empowering, self-affirming, feminist philosophy, women young and old still view being “fat” as the worst thing that can happen to them. I’ll never forget the late Gilda Radner saying she would rather have cancer than be fat – and that sweet, brilliant comedian died young and  slim – and riddled with cancer.

I haven’t watched Dr. Oz’s show over the past couple of years, but I previously saw it often. I also once met with him privately, back in the 90s before he was a star, because the then-wife of a friend of mine was a friend of his and he saw me as a courtesy to her. I honestly don’t remember what he advised, but I do recall that in person, as on his show, he was kind, non-judgmental, gentle, and seemed genuinely concerned about my health.

Since then as now I was truly fat, not cosmetically chubby or a perfectly normal weight but fat in my fearful imagination, one could say concern was warranted. I was in my 40s then and still dieted frequently. People who are really fat know that any diet (combined with even minor exercise) will take weight off. What no one has figured out is how to keep it off without dieting for life, because what science and medicine understand about real obesity can fit on the head of the proverbial pin. But Dr. Oz is no charlatan and he didn’t deserve a scolding by the Senate. He tells people to eat healthfully and exercise – and when he finds a product he thinks will help, he talks about it. 

My mother used to say that if anyone ever came up with the real magic pill – the one that would take weight off, keep it off, and still let you eat at least somewhat for pleasure, it would be news on the front page of The New York Times. I know Americans can be stupid about lots of things, so just keep her sensible observation in mind. Until that article appears, really fat people will have to really struggle, if they’re willing. The rest of you should just get a grip. You don’t have to be a 0. You’re not a big fat pig. Stop letting the haters manipulate you. Here: have a cookie.


Anonymous said...

It's not dieting for life, it's not overeating for life.

MizB said...

Ah, if only it were that simple, Anonymous No-Nothing. Overeating is an addiction and there truly are genetic components. There are people who can eat the way I do and never gain an ounce, while many overeaters can just look at certain foods and gain weight. You make it sound so simple. Simple is what it's not. But thanks for contributing to the hostile, hateful, judgmental climate.

MizB said...

Anonymous, I apologize for my first reply. Your comment pissed me off because it showed a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of compulsive overeating and the genetic and other biological elements involved. It's like saying to an alcoholic: just drink moderately. However, I now realize several truths simultaneously: 1) You have a right to comment anonymously if you wish and 2)since I don't know who reads this blog besides the people I send post alerts to, you may have chosen to be anonymous so as not to hurt my feelings. But 3)what really gets me is that out of all the things I wrote about: the cruelty to fat people, the making any woman with a little flesh on her bones feel like a pig, the marginalization of women because of their body size and much more, all you had to say was "just eat less"? Friend or stranger, that truly misses the points that are bigger and more important than the body size of fat people. I apologize for being rude, but you just don't get it.