Ways I Will NOT Be Celebrating Earth Day

By trying to figure out how to get my ass down to an arbitrarily approved size that will not result in my being accused of attempting to destroy the planet.

Of course, there is no discussion here of the fact that many “overweight” people do not overeat, do exercise, are vegetarians, and/or do not eat in a way that is necessarily or uniquely unhealthy as compared to “thin” people.  It also ignores the fact that there are plenty of ways to be “green” that don’t involve starving yourself through dieting (I’m quite sure that many overweight and obese people use public transportation, choose vehicles that are not gas-guzzling, support public policies that cut down on pollution, and more), or the fact that our personal environmental choices are important, but not nearly as much as those made by the world’s biggest polluters.

And best of all, in talking about what people who don’t meet a certain BMI requirement should be doing to end global warming, there’s no mention made whatsoever of the connection between obesity and poverty, how healthy foods can be downright unavailable in low-income neighborhoods, the way that our government subsidizes less healthy foods and therefore makes them far more affordable, or that while certain kinds of exercise may be “free” in a monetary sense, it does in fact cost time (which is something that not everyone, particularly those who are low-income, have).

No excuse is a bad excuse, it seems, to not-so-subtly shame fat people for the sin of existing.

Thanks to Rich for the link.


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37 comments for “Ways I Will NOT Be Celebrating Earth Day

  1. The Opoponax
    April 22, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Personally, I think any attempt at a connection between a person’s weight and their ‘environmental footprint’ is really fucking stupid.

    If anything, I wonder if the footprint of obsessive dieters is larger – how much energy does a treadmill use? A friend of mine was put on some sort of gimmicky high protein diet by her personal trainer which involved eating like 4-5 chicken breasts per day. More than 25 chickens a week had to die so she could lose a couple pounds. How “sustainable” is that?

  2. April 22, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you for writing this post!!

  3. bellareve
    April 22, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I completely agree.

    I “look” fit and healthy, my BMI is 21, but I eat a lot of refined sugars and not many vegetables and I only occasionally exercise. Maybe this is just my genetic body type.

    I’m CERTAIN that there are many overweight people who are far healthier than I am. It’s really ignorant to assume that you know a person’s lifestyle and eating habits just by looking at his or her figure.

  4. preying mantis
    April 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    …London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine? Seriously?

  5. April 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    bellareve: you’re absolutely right. I eat the worst diet imaginable and have a BMI of 17.5 (underweight), hubby eats far better than i do and is obese. His obesity prevented him from being diagnosed with MS for 2 years, because every symptom, including dizziness, was blamed on obesity.

    There is plenty of fat shaming in our culture. “You’re killing the planet” does not need to be added to the mix.

  6. NutellaonToast
    April 22, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    OUTRAGE!

    unsubscribe.

    Seriously, grow some perspective. Like it or not, moving heavier objects takes more energy than moving lighter ones. The fact that this article isn’t an entire book covering all the pros and cons of being fat doesn’t mean you get to go “wahhhh.”

    It may hurt people’s feelings, but losing weight is a good idea for about a million reasons if you’re overweight. You don’t really need to be superficial in order to make that statement.

  7. April 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Um, how did Trolly McTrollson get through? Unsure. But back under the bridge you go.

    Uh, in case it wasn’t clear: fat-shaming comments will not be allowed here. Nor, generally, are any comments on a feminist blog that conclude someone who is talking about bias in our society is going “wahhhh.”

  8. April 22, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    The Health Police showed up! Huzzah!

    Don’t you know, Cara? It’s your responsibility to be skinny! If you aren’t, you are failing the entire planet.

    Of course, the Health Police aren’t just higher-class privileged white folk who are finding new and brave ways to declare themselves holier-than-thou. No, of course not. It’s just your fault for not having the willpower to be rich enough to eat “healthy” (as designated by the white establishment) and exercise insane hours every day, and genetically-lucky enough to have a body predisposed to thinness in the first place. You lazy ass, you.

  9. The Opoponax
    April 22, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Like it or not, moving heavier objects takes more energy than moving lighter ones.

    Considering that the difference between “fat” and “thin” for many people is less than 50 lbs, I honestly doubt this sort of thing makes much difference. And things that really do make an impact in one’s personal carbon footprint, like going vegetarian or driving less, aren’t necessarily going to make much difference in terms of how fat or thin someone looks. Not to mention the many environmentally conscious choices that have nothing to do with weight at all.

    “Going “green” means being thin” is as relevant to real life as “cleaning your house regularly will make you taller”.

  10. April 22, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    “cleaning your house regularly will make you taller”

    It will?????? SWEET!

  11. April 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Ooooh, now I have an excuse not to clean! I’m already 5’8″, so I can’t afford to get any taller!

  12. purpleshoes
    April 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    … Many of the same things (agricultural policy, urban planning) might lead to unhealthy weight gain in some but not all people and global warming. But this article makes a completely bullshit conflation of cause and effect. Somehow I don’t think car culture would become sustainable if the people in the cars weighed 15% less.

  13. SA
    April 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Another thing – the article blames fat people for carbon emissions from the food idustry. It’s already been pointed out that plenty of fat people don’t necessarily eat more than thin people, but EVEN IF WE DID, they have failed take into consideration that eating more food doesn’t necessarily mean buying more food. According to the organisation “Love Food Hate Waste” 1/3 of the food bought in the UK is throw away without being eaten. http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ I should imagin the proportion is similar in most other industrialised countries.

  14. April 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I wrote about this a few days ago too.

    Fat hatred

    One of the the weird things they do to get their numbers is to assume that slim people drive small cars, and fat people drive big cars. Not evidence is given – it’s just a straight assumption.

    It’s a nasty little piece of (alleged) research.

  15. April 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    The amount of classism in the environmentalist movement that I see is very disheartening.

  16. April 22, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Something like 10 years ago or so, I remember seeing one of those sort-of news shows like PrimeTime or Dateline, where some group or another was going to ship tons of processed and other fairly “unhealthy” food to starving people… wherever. Some environmental-rights activists went nuts on the whole group for sending such unhealthy and “unnatural” garbage to them (while showing clips of the people in this group only eating raw, organic fruits & veggies), and eventually, they won, and no food was sent and those people were still starving. Because a group of hippies decided to be elitist pricks.

    …Sorry, that’s incredibly vague and probably sort of inaccurate, because it was seriously a decade ago, but the main point was intact. Poorer people don’t always have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and many, many people forget this and want to blame it on the overweight people for supposedly being lazy and stupid.

  17. April 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Wait wait wait — they fought the processed food being sent not because they wanted to replace it with healthy stuff, or locally grown stuff, etc., but just . . . to stop it? WTF!!!

  18. April 22, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Excellent point, Leighton.

  19. The Opoponax
    April 22, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    @Leighton – which is really sad, because honestly 99% of living a more sustainable lifestyle is buying less crap. Which anyone can do, regardless of their socioeconomic class. Of course, the media makes The Green Lifestyle all about buying things, and thus turns it into something “for rich people”.

  20. April 22, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Olympic athletes consume far more calories than the average person during the course of their training. They travel by plane to international competitions (some in addition to the Olympics), not to mention all the energy used by their training equipment.

    Of course, you won’t see an article like this about Olympic athletes because they are admired whereas people whose body-size crosses an arbitrary line into “fat” are condemned.

  21. ks
    April 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    No, of course not. It’s just your fault for not having the willpower to be rich enough to eat “healthy” (as designated by the white establishment) and exercise insane hours every day, and genetically-lucky enough to have a body predisposed to thinness in the first place. You lazy ass, you.

    Exactly. Like I told my sister, for us to be skinny after having kids (seriously, every single woman in my family on my mom’s side is, at best, chubby, if not downright fat or obese after we have babies and for the rest of our lives–it doesn’t go away) would require surgery, a personal trainer, a nanny, and about 4 extra hours in the day. It just isn’t going to happen. It isn’t a function of how much we diet or how much we exercise–we’re all healthy and we all eat reasonably. It’s genetic and it isn’t going to change.

  22. Ellen
    April 22, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    This frustrates me so much because I am in public health. And I don’t understand how people who got the same degree I did can still promote this bullshit! Health has long been used as a form of social control. And health recommendations often have more to do with politics and profit rather than what is healthy. Unfortunately the article did not mention how debated the obesity “epidemic” really is in the field of public health. The one thing that really surprises me about this research is that most people in public health know that the worst thing you can do when trying to change behavior is to stigmatize people. Research like this is dangerous. Mostly because people who are moderately overweight that are in good health will put themselves in far worse health by yo-yo dieting. That is much worse for your health than being fat. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that everything you are sating is backed up by research. While it is not generally healthy to be morbidly obese. If you eat right and exercise, it does not matter what you look like. And many thin people, especially men, die of heart attacks every year thinking they are healthy because they are not fat.

  23. April 23, 2009 at 6:32 am

    After I wrote my own post about this, I went and did a little digging through the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine site, and found pictures of both the people who did this “research.” It turns out they are both skinnies. I’m guessing they’ve never had to grapple with the reality of being chubby, of finding that no matter what they do, their weight goes above particular BMI thresholds, of not being able to find clothes that fit … you know – all that stuff. (NB: I’m a skinny too, through the roll of the genetic dice, but my partner is not, and it has been a real education for me, watching him work so very hard on maintaining good health. He breaks all the BMI rules, but he is healthy.) I keep on hearing a sneering tone in their research.

    The full study is on-line here: Population adiposity and climate change

  24. Rayna
    April 23, 2009 at 7:10 am
  25. SA
    April 23, 2009 at 7:52 am

    @Lirpa – WTF? Seriously, I could cry.

  26. Mama Mia
    April 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I know I’m late to the party, but I always get annoyed by the claim that being a vegetarian automatically makes you skinny. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and I think my BMI says I’m “overweight.” It just frustrates me that body image is the reason some young girl might choose to be vegetarian. There are plenty of reasons to be vegetarian, but succumbing to body stereotypes should not be one of them.

  27. JFM
    April 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    The logic here is perfectly flawless! Fat = not green, therefore thin = environmentally awesome. After all, we know that the US contributes more than any other country to human-sourced pollution, while the so-called Third World countries have by far the smallest carbon footprints. And we also know that Western countries, especially the US, have higher rates of obesity than less-industrialized/less-consumer-driven areas. Those gosh-darned Sudanese refugees are just so great, what with their low BMIs and small carbon footprints. The best solution to the issue of global warming is to induce famines and starvation worldwide!

    Or we could, you know, switch over to different energy sources. What’s that I hear? Oh, changing our energy use would require actual effort? Forget that–fat-shaming is waaay easier!

  28. Elise
    April 23, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Way to present an unworkable, stupid solution so that we can chastise the fat some more, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine! It would be bad enough if your genuinely idiotic calculations actually led to your appalling conclusion. But not only is it insulting… it’s bad science and crappy causality to boot.

    As presented, the study relies on comparing a 1970s carbon footprint to a predicted 2010 equivalent. But that’s more a comment on how our lives have changed in the intervening period than on any relationship between the girth of my hips and the impending heat death of the universe. And the really heinous assumption in this article (second, of course, to the implication that the overweight, among which I am counted, are causing the planet to DIE), is that if we return nothing but our bodies to 1970-era conditions (not the numbers of cars per family, for instance, among other things that were probably less earth-destroying 40 years ago), the everything will somehow be okay.

    If we all freak out and diet ourselves back to 1970, it will not change the reasons that obesity rates and the global temperature are increasing; we’ll still be locked in a processed food economy, drive everywhere and have lousy public transportation, work desk jobs and have no leisure time. And without addressing the genuine problems in our consumption of resources, it won’t change a damn thing.

  29. Alara Rogers
    April 23, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Wasn’t one of the reasons that we were thinner in the 1970’s because smoking was much, much more acceptable?

    Is cigarette smoke good for the planet? How about growing tobacco?

  30. Tom
    April 24, 2009 at 6:59 am

    I think the point behind this article is better understood — and told — from the societal perspective than from the personal one. From the personal perspective, it really does read as fairly fat-shaming and insulting.

    There is no denying, however, the high rates of obesity-related health problems in societies who subscribe to the Western diet on a large scale. It also happens to be that refining all those grains and producing 10 billion animals a year causes vast amounts of pollution and waste, not to mention the cost of shipping the final products.

    It is also indeed true that the most heavily-processed food tends to be the cheapest and most accessible. And, costs aside, the culture of appreciating fresh foods and the education behind proper nutrition and food cultivation tend to be absent in poorer communities, urban ones especially. You’ll find these more in populations of privilege.

    So, if one really wanted to, one could draw some correlation between industrialized societies feeding their populations industrialized “food,” that “food” making the population both fatter and less healthy overall, and then finally measuring the environmental impact of it. You could even then argue that the poor people, because the processed food is less expensive, are hurting the environment disproportionately more than the rich people.

    But the fact that inexpensive, high-calorie, nutrient-devoid grain derivatives make the people fatter is purely incidental. The poor people don’t have a lot of choice; the people wealthy enough to afford the choices are intentionally misled by marketing and confused nutritionists; the government regulators are heavily lobbied by industrial agriculture groups; and so on. So unless you do some extensive research, you the individual really don’t stand a chance. But, if things were changed from the top down, everyone would be a lot better off.

    A more insightful article would have been titled “Our current industrial food model is making people fat, is denying them nutrients, and is destroying the planet.”

    Side note: The phrase “Vegetarians are thinner”, again, is more of a statistical observation. Vegetarians pay a lot of attention to, exercise a lot of discipline about, and make a lot of decisions about what they eat. So do bodybuilders, olympic athletes, your eccentric raw-foodist friends, and so on. Those groups too have statistically low body fat percentages. Obviously one could be vegetarian and still maintain a diet of refined sugars and hard oils — not very productive for weight loss.

  31. William
    April 24, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Olympic athletes consume far more calories than the average person during the course of their training.

    Its not just Olympic athletes. Maintenance for me is around 4500 calories a day with infrequent exercise. When I try to push my body fat (and thus my BMI) down that number goes up. A lot of people just don’t fit the “normal” 2000 or so calorie diet.

  32. William
    April 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    A more insightful article would have been titled “Our current industrial food model is making people fat, is denying them nutrients, and is destroying the planet.”

    Ahh, but that ultimately comes down to the same problem. Such an article begs the question “what do we do about this?” The only answer ultimately comes down to controlling the decisions of the individual, to controlling their bodies, to changing the way they think of and consume food. The only ways to pull that off are powerful centralized means of controlling food distribution or “education” which will inevitably need to engage in some variation of fat shaming. As we don’t live in a culture with a centrally controlled market, the logical conclusion of such an article would be attempts to persuade people to change their habits. Realistically that means telling people that doing things which are likely to cause them to gain weight hurts the environment.

    At the end of the day this discussion will always become a fight between people who have different values. You dislike the western way of eating, I sometimes wrap pork in more pork and serve the result with couscous cooked in chicken broth and a butter based sauce.

  33. April 24, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Saying “Boy, our food policy is all kinds of fucked up” is NOT the same as saying “Boy, people sure are fat.”

    The minute you include people’s bodies in your criticism, you rest the responsibility on them for having a wrong body.

    You cannot make a criticism that includes obesity, fat, etc. and get around that basic fact.

    You CAN criticize the awful, awful food policy we have, the way we approach “green,” the way we use energy. All that stuff matters! The fact that my ass is now 44″ instead of the 37″ it was when I was severely undernourished? That does not affect global warming. Sorry.

  34. The Opoponax
    April 25, 2009 at 10:10 am

    the only answer ultimately comes down to controlling the decisions of the individual, to controlling their bodies, to changing the way they think of and consume food.

    Of course not. It comes from changing food policy on the national level, which (one assumes) would influence the large-scale producers. There’s a reason Coca Cola replaced sugar with HFCS back in the 80’s; it became a widely available cheaper substitute due to corn subsidies. Which in turn made coke cheaper. Which in turn inspired the big gulp and the 20oz standard serving size. Personal choices my fucking ass.

  35. William
    April 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Of course not. It comes from changing food policy on the national level, which (one assumes) would influence the large-scale producers. There’s a reason Coca Cola replaced sugar with HFCS back in the 80’s; it became a widely available cheaper substitute due to corn subsidies. Which in turn made coke cheaper. Which in turn inspired the big gulp and the 20oz standard serving size. Personal choices my fucking ass.

    I’m not sure you’re economics are up to par. Government subsidies for HFCS made using HFCS cheaper than using sugar (although part of that has to do with tariffs). While that made soft drinks cheaper, we’re talking about a marginal difference, a tiny percentage added to an already enormous profit margin. You could, and should, change the subsidies for HFCS but that isn’t going to do a thing about the consumption of drinks that used to have HFCS because the HFCS doesn’t do much about the cost. Ever wonder why you can go to your local supermarket and find pretty much any soft drink you want for half price at least twice a month? Its because even at half price everyone is making money.

    I live in Chicago and theres a very large Jewish community very close to my home. Theres also a very large Mexican immigrant community. Back in Mexico Coke is made with cane sugar, not HFCS. Apparently HFCS isn’t Kosher, either. As a result Coke makes a “kosher-for-passover” version thats sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS. All of the little Jewish and Mexican markets in the area stock it right next to the HFCS Coke. Most of them charge the same price, too.

    The increase in serving sizes has had more to do with marketing the perception of value than the reduced price of creating the product.

  36. April 26, 2009 at 11:26 am

    This post is a good starting point but to me talks around certain scenarios brought up. Black women of the middle and lower-classes are particularly vulnerable to being overweight. Yes the processed food and the lack of fresh veggies has something to do with it. Yes having to work long hours will make it difficult to exercise. Let’s not rule out personal responsibility though. Speaking from my own experiences with being ever-increasingly made to feel uncomfortable because other people are trying to police my body – including United Airlines – I know it’s not fair. There are emotional issues that underlie a lot of the eating choices many of us make. For many BW it’s because we’ve been indoctrinated with being religious and self-sacrificing to our detriment. When you spend all of your time and resources on others who don’t reciprocate it’ll show up in your appearance amongst other things. So aside from the gov’t, food processing and access we have to change what’s between our ears before we can tackle the exernal barriers. Other people’s weight journey are probably based on a combo of other things.

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