1 in 6 Women Would Rather Be Blind Than Obese

Jezebel.com did a quick article referencing a Times of India piece about a study in which 1 in 6 women apparently said that they would rather be blind than obese. I haven’t seen the study and I can’t tell you if I think it’s accurate or not, but it’s the reporting that I want to talk about because it manages to be bad on so many levels:

First, they seem to use “affliction” and “socially stigmatized condition” interchangeably in the Times article.  Obesity is not an affliction, it is a body size.  I am as fat as you can get on the BMI chart: Type 3 Super Obese.  I  am also super healthy and happy.  I am not afflicted by a health condition, I am stigmatized by society. These are two very different things. If I had a health condition I would try to cure it via healthy habits.  Social Stigma I try to cure by telling people to shut the hell  up and mind their own business enforcing my personal boundaries, trying to elucidate options and suggesting that all people should be treated with dignity, even if you don’t agree with their choices.

Second  -  The quote that accompanied the Times article was “Experts said, “it was astonishing that people would opt – even in theory  – for afflictions that were difficult or impossible to treat in favour of obesity.”

Notice the false dichotomy between “afflictions that were difficult or impossible to treat” and “obesity”.  Like people can cross their arms and bounce their head like “I Dream of Jeannie” and be thin.  The Jezebel article is, to me, even worse saying “Obesity is, generally speaking, a condition that can be reversed”   Not so much.  So far intentional weight loss has shown a long-term success rate of less than 5% in all major scientific studies, that’s within the statistical margin of error.

Maybe it’s time to accept that not only don’t we have a simple solution for long-term weight loss – we don’t have any proven solution at all.  Maybe we don’t notice because the diet industry has managed to replace the concept of “health” with the concept of “thin” and is being paid handsomely for it,  so we think that we need to be thin no matter what the cost or we’ll never be healthy.  Unfortunately the lazy medicine and science that this situation has wrought seem to have abandoned any type of research around making people healthier for the much more lucrative pursuit of making them smaller (or, in actuality, telling them that you can make them smaller without ever delivering on that promise).

What would our health be like if we actually focused on health, rather than body size?

Finally, the Jezebel article asks “Is the fact that north of 15% of women who participated in the study would prefer blindness to obesity a testament to the shallowness that women have been driven to in American society or to the fact that women realize that society tends to treat the obese more poorly than it treats the blind?”

This is not the Oppression Olympics and I’m not interested in getting into any discussions about who is more stigmatized.  I have very little understanding of what a blind person must deal with in the world and to be clear I would choose obesity any day of the freaking week.  But what I’m thinking is that maybe it’s a testament to the fact that blind people aren’t constantly told that they could see if they just had some personal responsibility and will power and tried hard enough, and that if they are going to stay blind then they don’t deserve respect or love.

Luckily I don’t have to make the choice between blindness or obesity but I do make the choice to focus on my health rather than my body size and that one I’ll stand by.

By the way my blog has once again been posted to the board of “fit” people.  These people are obsessed with me!  I can’t imagine how much of their lives they’ve devoted to reading my blog, posting comments I’m never going to allow through, photoshopping my picture, putting negative comments on my YouTube videos (and flagging them as terrorism) etc. These people have spent a TON of time on me.  I’d be flattered if I thought that they were worth the time it takes to delete their comments.  Thanks for the attention and all the hits to my page but please do feel free to go do something useful with your lives.  Also, feel free to stop leaving anonymous comments complaining about how I didn’t post your previous anonymous comment.  It’s called comment moderation – I worked very hard to create a forum for respectful, intelligent discussion of Health at Every Size, self -esteem and body image.  I am so grateful for all of the people who let me know that they’ve found support or encouragement here.  If you think I’m going to use my forum to give a voice to people who are only looking to tear others down, and are, based on a preponderance of the evidence, uninterested in a respectful intelligent discussion (“fatties gonna fat” Seriously?)  and typically are so cowardly that they won’t even put their real name and e-mail on their comments then you are even less bright than your comments suggest. But you know, keep clicking because it’s making my stats look great and I’m getting pretty fast with the “Trash Comment” button.

Thanks to the always awesome Beauty Schooled Project for turning me onto the Times India Article.

Here are the original articles

Jezebel.com

Times India

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 5:38 am  Comments (31)  

31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This post made me smile. I sometimes do get disparaged by all the ignorance and hatred on popular websites such as Jezebel. Currently there is a whole other explosion of fat hatred going on by people who defend Southwest airlines for bumping fat passengers from economy seats. But when I read posts like these I feel that it is all worth it and that I am going to keep claiming my right to space in the world, however large that space needs to be.

    Btw, I have set my own comment policy such that it only allows people through with at least one prior approved comment. I think there is even an option to automatically delete comments with certain terms. That might save you some time.

  2. Hi Ragen,

    Don’t feed the trolls! ;) But seriously, they’ll go away after a while. I got similar treatment some years back, mostly from MFS trolls and the contingent of courageous soldiers who have organized to take down FA (I kid, I kid, they’re actually small-minded, frightened cowards). Blocking IPs works well, if you don’t want the flood of annoyance all the time. I guarantee you it’s probably no more than 4 or 5 people posting under different names, etc. Sorry about your YouTube account; I think you can complain directly to YouTube that you’re getting trolled. Maybe someone with more YouTube experience than me can comment on that.

    I’ve been thinking about writing a post on how fat hate would survive the more widespread acceptance of diet rate failures. Unfortunately obesity has been called a ‘condition’ or ‘disease’ for so long that even if it’s accepted to be largely genetic and largely unchangeable through habits, many people would still think you should change it some other way, like some future ‘magic pill,’ surgery, and so on. Sadly, accepting the failure rates of diets isn’t going to make fat acceptable to most people. It might in a generation or two, but we’re a long way away.

    The Jez article was poorly written, shallow, and seemed hurried, as most of them are these days (after the Gawker sites re-do). I got my star on there last year and used to love to comment, but I haven’t even signed on to comment since after the re-do. It’s just really, really not the high-quality site it used to be.

  3. Unfortunately, this kind of trolling behavior is not limited to the FA/HAES movement. I belong to another online community that dares to think against the grain and we are bullied by the opposite side on a regular basis.

    This week I have been almost totally mentally beat down. By my personal trainer. By my counselor. Neither of which believe me when I try to explain why I now believe in HAES and why I’m no longer worried about the weight. I’m trying to make healthy choices for me. Tracking my calories and food intake until I learn what *my* body needs, but not doing it to lose weight. Part of it may be my fault for not explaining it correctly.

    At this point, I can only smile and try to close my ears to the shaming from my trainer who said, “You should have lost at least 40 pounds by now.” Completely negating the advances that I’ve made in my cardio health, my strength and my flexibility.

    Anyway, sorry about word vomiting in your blog comments. I just don’t have a FA safe place right now. Your blog is that for me. And I thank you so much for continuing to do what you do. {{{hugs}}}

    • Pange-

      My sister recently had a similar thing happen–she joined a gym and was so excited. Within two weeks she quit because she felt her trainer didn’t support her. He didn’t believe she was committed to being healthy because she was fat. I was told recently that there is no required certification for trainers and, based on what I have seen, that seems to be true. It seems that in the majority of gyms the only requirement is to be a gym rat which DOES NOT make you qualified to hand down judgment about a person’s health.

      Regan–

      Of all of the people I have ever followed on the internet, you by far have the most grace under fire. I am always amazed and inspired by your responses to trolls (or lack thereof). You critique but you never use fear or hate. That legacy is going to last way longer than any troll’s interest in you. So know that, for every hater, you have 3 more people in the wings thinking you are an amazing person.

      • Julie,

        I’m so sorry for your sister’s bad experiences. Whether or not a trainer has to be certified (and who certifies them) depends on the gym where they work. To further complicate things there are training programs that are very rigorous and there are those that can be done online very easily. I always talk to the trainer and explain what I require (that we focus on my goals and not weight loss) before I even get started and I will fire someone in a second if they don’t keep up their end of the bargain.

        Thank you so much for your kind words and support, you really made me smile and I appreciate it more than you know!

        ~Ragen

    • Pange,

      Hugs right back! I’m sorry that you are also having to deal with the bad behavior of trolls and I’m sorry that you are having such a difficult week and that the people who are supposed to be supporting you on the path to health are letting you down. I don’t know if it will help you but the way I explain it is to say that I am focusing only on healthy habits and strength, stamina, flexibility etc. Then I tell the person that I don’t want to discuss weight ever again and that if they bring it up, while I like them as a person, I’ll have to fire them as a health advisor because they aren’t doing their job. Then you have to stick to it – I’ve gone through several personal trainers at this point. Very best of luck with everything and if there is anything that I can do to help let me know!

      ~Ragen

    • I’m trying to figure out why you’re still with a personal trainer like that. Seriously, why are you putting up with that abuse? You deserve better. I had a terrific personal trainer for a while who wouldn’t berate me about weight loss or gain. She was more concerned about how I felt and my progress with strength training and stamina. You’re the boss in that relationship and if things aren’t meeting your expectations, you can break it off.

      • Julie, Ragen, & Laurie,

        Thanks for the support! And for the words of wisdom. Standing up to people on my own behalf is kind of new to me.

        To be fair, I’ve been seeing my trainer for over a year and this is the first time she’s ever brought up my weight in such a negative way.

        Anyway I’m having a much better day today! I got a brand new dress (with a belt!) and new shoes. Clothes make me happy. ;)

        Thanks again! {{{hugs}}}

      • You’re the boss in that relationship and if things aren’t meeting your expectations, you can break it off.

        This. No one should ever feel obligated to *pay money* to be treated badly.

        And yet, there are definitely professional relationships where the power dynamic is weird, and the whole thing seems to be designed to make the customer forget that that’s what they are. Personal trainers and doctors are the main two I can think of off the top of my head. There’s an expectation that it’s okay for your doctor or your trainer to “push” you “for your own good” and that they’re the authority that makes it harder to stand up to abuse and fire people than it would in other situations.

  4. Just wanted to know if you’d read up on the inaccuracies of the BMI: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439 (Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI is Bogus).

    It’s just bad science and to have doctors nationwide use it as a standard of health is pretty sad. By BMI standards, most professional football players are morbidly obese yet they have the strength and stamina to run up and down a field all day and kick the crap out of each other.

    Anyway, keep doing what you do. Some days, yours is one of the few voices of reason.

  5. I just want to add another voice to the chorus of cheers for you.

    Don’t let anyone silence you; the message of body acceptance and HAES is one that everyone needs to hear. I’m still trying to get there myself. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

  6. Thank you, Ragen, for braving the wilds of the Internet for those who, like me, are too cowardly or too sensitive to go there. Thank you for speaking up on our behalf, for banning and refusing to feed the trolls, for understanding and articulating what’s really going on here. My fat self always does a little inner dance whenever I read your stuff. :)

  7. The trolls are jealous of your confidence. They are clearly spending all their time searching for their own. I’ve been hearing about this study and it really is shocking. It also seems quite offensive to the blind as they definitely understand the difference between a medical problem and social stigmas. I’d rather be obese than blind, and I’d also rather be obese than anorexic. I’d actually really rather society didn’t constantly create ultimatums like this for people to get all wound up comparing things that simply can’t compare. Keep writing. People need to hear what you have to say!

  8. I wish I could say this is shocking, but alas I can’t bring myself to say or type those words. Junk science like this simply feeds into the idea that we should be thin at any cost. I have a few friends and family members that don’t understand that I would rather be fat than anything else. If they want to have a discussion that has logic and reason in it then I will have that dialog, but if not then I’m just not going to beat my head against the proverbial brick wall with that any more. The thing is, you can’t please all the people most of the time, and I’m not in it to please them. If I’m pleased then that’s all that matters in the long run.

    I have a long way to go in pleasing myself, but that’s mostly because I’m so self-critical about much of my life that I’m not sure I could please myself entirely. What I do know is that the people who truly matter in my life are more than glad to take me as I am. If they stop taking me as I am then perhaps they don’t need to be in my life.

  9. Jezebel has become extremely disappointing and that’s why I quit posting over there. For a site that is supposed to be feminist, most of them can’t still wrap the idea around their heads that many women can live a good life and be healthy while fat. But I digress.

    As for the trolls, their lives must be so devoid that they become obsessed with a stranger and her blog for no good reason other to say stupid crap over the Internet. Seriously peeps, get a freakin’ life!

    • [WARNING: The comment is paternalistic, includes information that is not backup up by scientific data]Funny you should say get a life; those people will almost certainly live a longer, fuller life than yourself. I do not fat people, I do not hate anyone over choices they make. It’s your body, fat or thin, healthy or unhealthy (these are very interchangeable), what does it have to do with me? I don’t really know why obesity is shunned by society, whereas anorexia is almost promoted by magazine, etc.

      • Hi Frank,

        I’m mostly confused by your comment. You say that you don’t hate anyone for the choices that they make which I’m sure everyone appreciates, but you feel comfortable making assumptions about how full my life is and how long I will live. That’s annoying to me so let’s get clear: I’ve been a National Merit Scholar, and played Carnegie Hall. I’m the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, I am a three-time National Champion Dancer (this year competing for my first World Title), I got to attend the red carpet premiere of a documentary in which I am interviewed alongside Michelle Obama and Kathleen Sebelius – the current Secretary of Health and Human Services. I write a blog that is read on 6 continents by hundreds of thousands of people. Which is to say that you don’t know the first thing about me and I doubt very seriously that anyone would consider my life not full. As for the potential for having a shorter life, I covered that here: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/dying-of-fatness/

        ~Ragen

      • Ragen, not that I expect you to allow such comments to continue through your BS filter, but I’m almost interested to know how exactly Frank here thinks your (and by proxy our, since the person who said “get a life” is actually not you and another common comment poster in these parts) life isn’t full.

        Obviously the whole “choice” thing just makes the migraine I woke up with pound even louder in my head, but that’s because of Frank’s desire to interchange terms that, I believe, shouldn’t be interchangeable.

        Oh and also, DAYUM woman! I can only tick one item off on your list of things as something I have done myself and that’s the National Merit Scholar part. Of course I have my own list of accomplishments, but still.

  10. I would also choose obesity. BTW, a post at The Agitator back on May 10 made a similar point: that the women who gave that answer made a rational choice based on current societal prejudices.

    As for the trolls, they are probably the sort of people who do bicep curls in the squat rack, and admire themselves in the mirror between sets…

    • Comment of the day: “As for the trolls, they are probably the sort of people who do bicep curls in the squat rack, and admire themselves in the mirror between sets…”

      I laughed for like an hour about this. I get the feeling that they are totally those people. I did wander over to the forum finally out of curiosity and although I didn’t post I was amused to see that I lift more than most of the people who posted their stats. Thanks for the comment!

      ~Ragen

  11. The study surveyed 100 women, and these articles are interpreting that as “women in America”? REALLY?

  12. That study is bullshit. Sorry, it is. And I’m not a scientist and I’m going on anecdata, but I still call bullshit.

    My anecdata? I’ve been spending a lot of time with a friend who is actually going blind. There is nothing that can be done and every day she loses a bit more sight. She would give anything – ANYTHING – to get her sight back. The idea that she would rather choose what’s happening to her than be fat (not that that choice has been offered) is so offensive, on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin. Anyone who says they would choose blindness is either being prompted to say that, or is being flippant, or just hasn’t thought it through at all.

    But this whole topic makes me angry. After a year of continuous cancer treatment, which has stripped the weight off me, I have finally gone back to work and to social functions. In the past two weeks I have been told THREE times by different people that being sick did me “a lot of good” and that I “look great now”. One guy even said “you should get sick more often!”

    A lot of good? I have been left with a raft of health issues that will NEVER GO AWAY. And that’s the definition of good? Just because I’m thin?

    And the kicker is that I’m a fat woman in a temporarily thin woman’s body. What are they going to say to me when the weight starts coming back? That I had some wonderful gift from God and I blew it?

    Keep blogging. Blog more often.

    • Alexei, I am so very sorry to hear about your friend and your own personal health issues.

    • Hi Alexie,

      This is a great comment. I agree that the study is probably drivel (starting with the fact that the sample size was only 100), I just didn’t want to take waste the time to analyze it! I will also be stealing the term anecdata!

      I’m so very sorry that you had to deal with cancer treatment and congratulations on your fight. I’ve had other readers with cancer who had similar comments and I find it just sickening. What the hell is wrong with people?

      Glad that you like the blog and thanks for the comment and for being willing to share your story. I think that it’s really important for people to know just how crazy behavior can get around the issue of body size.

      ~Ragen

    • Ouch. I’m really sorry, not only that people’s priorities are so screwed up, but that they have the complete lack of manners to share their BS “congratulations” with you. I’d have been tempted to say, in a patronizing tone, “You do know what cancer is, right? You know I could’ve died, right?”

      “You should get sick more often.” Seriously. He should open his mouth less often. Never would probably be good.

      But I’m glad that you’re doing better and able to go to work and do social things again.

  13. These are all the same people who enjoyed bullying their classmates in the school yard! The Trolls are all mad and in a tizzy, simply because you DARE to think/be different from what society says you’re suppose to be. The fact that you don’t care what they say, drives them CRAZY! They all start throwing verbal temper tantrums! I personally think this means you are doing a good job and the right thing. So, when the trolls do show up and start nibbling around at your posts just remember; it is because you dare to stand up for yourself, and the rest of us who aren’t as brave.

  14. I don’t know that the trolls are mad and/or jealous. They are, in many cases, simply vying for attention. They know they can get it on most websites by being nasty and insulting. They derive entertainment by stirring the pot, and then sitting back to watch the mayhem they’ve created. My experience with trolls is that they have nothing better in their lives, than to stir up discontent. The best tactic to deal with trolls is simply – don’t feed them. Don’t give them what they want. Ignore them. Don’t argue with them, don’t trade insults or jabs, and don’t attempt rational discourse with them. They don’t care what you think or how intelligent your position is. All they want is to get a reaction – ANY reaction – out of you. The more you engage them, the more they’ll come back and stir things up.

  15. Hi there, I just happened across this site/post while randomly googling. I have to say I think what you’ve said in this post is quite wonderful, and it’s such a relief to hear. I’ve foolishly been reading a lot of utte shit on facebook about how fat people are all subhuman and deserve nothing but derision etc etc. Against my better judgement I let it really, really get to me so was in search of something to make me feel better. Well I’m really impressed by your writing on the subject and will certainly read more. Thankyou.

  16. I really like your post and thought you might like to see what I wrote about this survey on my blog ‘Blind Spot’: I’m looking at it from a blind person’s point of view. And after I wrote it I found the original article from the American Journal of Public Health and this puts the whole thing back into a more helpful context. And in response to Alexie, maybe you should point your friend in the direction of my blog too: I hope she’ll see that going blind is not a tragedy: it is the sighted world’s attitude to blindness which is tragic (just as it is the thin world’s attitude to obesity which is the problem…..):
    http://hannah-thompson.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/would-you-rather-be-blind-or-fat.html

    • Hannah,

      Thank you for this response and perspective, I think it’s really important and I did a horrible job in my post of arguing against the idea that being blind is “tragic”.

      I would point out that you said “obesity can often be treated” but that’s not actually the case. Every study of intentional weight loss since 1959 has shown us that only a very small percentage (about 5%) of people are able to maintain weight loss, and that weight loss triggers physiological changes in the body for the express purpose of weight regain and retention.

      Thanks again for adding your perspective to this I really appreciate it!

      ~Ragen

      • Hi Ragen,
        I have never really thought about the negative way in which people talk about obesity before and the myths surrounding it (which I unfortunately reproduced in my post) but after reading your wonderful blog I’ve noticed how many of the people who commented on my post (mostly on facebook) see obesity as something not only negative, but also something that people should be blamed for. This is such a pervasive attitude and if I hadn’t found your blog I would never have realised how wrong it is. I’m so glad I have read your posts: they have changed the way I think!
        with warm wishes,
        Hannah


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