Dr. Oz and His Fat Suit

Wrong RoadDr. Oz (of “I was flabbergasted” by evidence that is clearly in the literature fame) has donned a fat suit.  First I will say that I appreciate any goals he had around gaining empathy for what it’s like to be a fat person in the current culture.  It can certainly be problematic to “dress up” like someone who is part of a marginalized population for a short time to try to understand what it’s like to be them, especially when there are many, many reports from actual fat people about what it’s like to be fat people.  Even assuming that he went into it with good intentions , there are other issues  that are very problematic.

“‘I’ve been in some difficult situations in my life, but this i think will be the most difficult. My arms are heavy, my legs are heavy.’ 

This is the same mistake that he made when he had Glenn Gaesser put on an 80 pound vest and run up some stairs.  Being fat isn’t the same as being thin with a bunch of dead weight attached to you all of a sudden. As people get fat their bodies adjust to the weight, many of us have very strong bones and a lot of muscle mass (many fat people’s mobility improves quite a bit when they work on strength).

It’s sobering to walk past a window and see 400 pounds staring back at you. Even though in my head I know I’m wearing a fat suit and I’m not really 400 pounds, my heart is saying, “you’re not worthy.”‘

That’s not a reaction to being 400 pounds, that a reaction to being 400 pounds in a culture that stigmatizes 400 pound people.  It’s a culture to which Dr. Oz has contributed quite profitably.

He concluded that he is no longer going to display people’s weights in his show’s Truth Tube, claiming that there’s no need for a scale to ‘be proud of who you are’.

It’s a start.  What I think would also be super duper is if he would start focusing on health and not weight, stop exploiting fat people for ratings, and seek out and believe the experiences of actual fat people.  What I think would be fabulous is if he would start talking about the real health risks to people of size that come from shame and stigma and talk about that on the show.

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Published in: on February 2, 2014 at 8:04 am  Comments (36)  

36 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yeah, read about that, too – and he did look like the Michelin-mascot. Not like a REAL fat person. Can only agree with anything you said: It’s a start, but not a perfect start.
    And yes, we fatties do have a muscle or two – not only our jaw muscles are well trained.

  2. i am usually in vehement agreement with you. not so much this time. this fake is never gonna do all the important things you mention on his show, and i’d much rather he disappear and be denounced far and wide (and especially by oprah, who “made” him).

    you say “Still, I’ll assume that he went into it with good intentions” — i don’t, and frankly, i think it is not useful to ascribe good intentions to him. he is a charlatan, and sells crap diet products to desperate people; products he KNOWS do not work, whatever he does, i view it solely as a publicity stunt. this newest spiel looks designed to pretend he “has walked in our shoes” so us fatties flock to him in even greater numbers. i’m not gonna deign that with even the faintest of praise, it doesn’t deserve it.

    • I agree

    • I agree. I want Oz and Phil and all of those shows gone. I think they are exploitative of the mentally ill and the abused. It’s really sick. My mom and I fight pretty much anytime she tries to watch their shows.

  3. Would also like to add that in addition to increased bone and muscle mass the entire cardiovascular system is right-sized.

  4. After watching this episode of the DR OZ SHOW, I also have mixed feelings. He’s acting like he’s going to empathize more with fat people now. I think it’s a step in the right direction that he will no longer display people’s weights unless they are OK with it. However, I also get the impression he is still all about pushing people to lose weight, somehow, some way, whether really possible or not; whether really beneficial to their health or not.

    As Ragen alluded to, DR OZ is famous for preaching about things that he clearly is not up to speed on, especially where obesity is concerned. To his credit, on this show he DID admit that the large majority doctors receive no formal training in obesity. So many people seem convinced that any doctor ..every doctor …must know more about obesity than a fatty like me. In reality, they just don’t. Not even close. And now, OZ has admitted that. One small step in the right direction.

  5. I get upset with the ‘fat suit’ thing too. Mostly for the reasons you mention here AND the fact that it can be taken off. “Oops, only kidding. You’re not really fat? Well then you CAN come in.” And I used to like Doctor Oz and first, but unfortunately he does push products that really have no business being sold. A small step, yes, but he needs to be held accountable.

  6. I have never watched an episode of Dr. Phil or of Oprah with him on it, so I cannot comment on his “wisdom” personally.

    While I want to believe that he has seen the light and will change his ways, I am also skeptical. Perhaps he will as long as it is profitable. From the little I have heard of him, he seems more about sensationalism than health. And more about the dollar than helping people.

    Still, every small victory counts! And if he does change, even a little, it is worthy of celebration.

  7. Ragen, I think you’re being a bit generous when you say it is a start. The statements you quoted as problematic are indeed that, and I don’t think I need to go into why, because you already explained that quite well. While I’m usually more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, I cannot in Dr. Oz’s case. Not when he keeps spouting this garbage. Not when he keeps erasing the experiences of actual fat people.

    Our experiences are as varied as those of thin people and I think the world needs to know that. It makes me angry to think there are fat people out there who think they cannot do certain things because there are so many asshats like Dr. Oz telling them they can’t simply because they’re fat.

  8. Back in the Bad Old Days white performers would put on blackface to perform in “minstrel” shows. And now that sort of thing is regarded as indefensible. Dr. Oz is more showman than Doctor. His “act” got a lot of attention. His agent must be very, very proud. Ka-ching!

  9. You’re very generous, Ragen. I still find it more problematic than helpful because not only (as you say) could he have simply listened to, and believed, people who told him what it’s like to be fat in public, but by strapping on the fat suit, he is still engaging in exploitation of fat people for ratings. If he were an otherwise reasonable and non-quackified doctor, I might appreciate him more, but I just think Dr. Oz is a quack and an attention whore.

  10. I am glad you made this a short blog…. He needs few words then to quickly be furthermore and forever disregarded.

  11. I think that Ragen should have her own show like Ellen where she dances around the coffee table and talks about what stupid stereotypes we the fat people have fallen victim to, what awesome plus size fashion amd fashionistas are out there, etc. I’d totally watch it! ♥

    • I’d totally bump up the ratings on that show!

    • OH HELL YEAH

    • I would totally watch this show.

  12. While Dr. Oz’s motivations MAY have been sincere and intended to ‘help’ people, my suspicion is that it’s something far more insidious.

    After all, he’s spent a couple years watching Weight Watchers scream at the top of their lungs that they aren’t a diet, but a ‘lifestyle choice’ and Special K co-opt FA concepts, slogans, and actual pieces of protest art (the Yay! scale) to sell the idea that eating their cereal will make us all thin.

    I think he senses a change in the wind of how fate hate is sold, and is paddling his canoe that way for all the money he’s worth.

    I’d love to be proved wrong, but then I remember this is Dr. Oz.

    • Twis, I’m in your court on this one. I just find the man’s attitude and actions so despicable. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.

      • For most of my life, I believed that I was fat (super obese actually) because I was all those things fat people are acccused of – lazy, gluttonous, dumb, etcetera. I believed it was all my fault, and, that the doctors had it right. After all, it’s just basic math: calories in, calories out.

        I met with a representative of NAAFA about 20 years go, and at that time I thought all the same things about her that people accuse me of today. I thought she was “in denial”. Making excuses for her own failures. That she was just …..demented.

        I have since come to the realization that she was right.

        I’m going to guess that there are a lot of people in Doctor Oz’s regualr audience who still believe the diet myths, but are getting close to making the transition into reality. Once enough of them catch up with recent ressearch, and realize that weight loss claims made by OZ and so many other TV shows are bogus, his show would die. UNLESS, he gets on board before that happens. Stay ahead of the curve of audience sentiment.

        It may be as you say, he knows EXACTLY what he is doing, and it’s more about money than it is about truth, and promoting other people’s good health.

        • Your comment is bang on. He’s feeling the breeze blowing into his smug mug.

  13. Regardless of his topic, Dr. Oz peddles in snake oil. I have a hard time believing that any good will come from him.

    I hope that you are right, Ragen, that some good will come from this, but I just can’t give him the benefit of the doubt.

  14. Fat suits are becoming all the rage.. Dr. Oz simply latched onto a trend It is indeed all about the dollar and I don’t trust him to make a move in the direction of less fat shaming unless it pays for him to do so.

    Watch for Miley Cyrus to twerk in a fat suit next. (I hope everyone has some anti-nausea pills nearby.)

  15. If he wanted to really know what it feels like then he should have had a suit made where he can slowly add weight to it over the course of several months and he should have had to wear it several hours a day every day for the course of his experiment, that way he’d get used to the changing weight over time and actually have a clue rather than grabbing a gimmick so he can pretend to be more empathic so people will buy more of the crap he endorses.

  16. Thank you for your balanced perspective about this. I agree that Dr. Oz thinks he’s trying to learn some empathy.

    If he wanted some more of that there edjumakashion, I would like to suggest:

    Actually talking to some fat people and listening to what they’re saying instead of assigning the same motives and characteristics to all of us.

    Organizing a panel discussion with Linda Bacon, Dr. Glen Gaesser (whom he might then apologize to), yourself and Marilyn Wann, and again, he could mostly shut up and pay attention to what the panelists actually say.

    Having a few of the dozens of people he’s fat-shamed over the years come back on his show so he could apologize to them.

    And, as long as I’m dreaming, why not throw in a TARDIS? 8)

  17. My biggest complaint about those who choose to wear fat suits on TV shows, movies, and so on? They DON’T LOOK FAT! They look like a socially acceptable sized person in “fat prosthetics.” When studio audiences or movie theater patrons laugh hysterically at such characters, they a probably getting a kick out of the knowledge that these actors are in actually in the BMI happy zone with THE REST of those in show biz.

  18. I lost any respect for Dr. Oz when I saw a show about a woman who had a huge tumor removed. It was something like 150 pounds. She was around 180-200 pounds afterwards. She was continually diagnosed as overweight.

    Dr. Oz had the nerve to tell her she would have been diagnosed more quickly if she had lost some weight. I wanted to reach through the tv and punch him.

  19. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    As far as Dr. Oz’ pathetic attempt to “understand what it is like to live as a fat person,” he’s surely no John Howard Griffin. Griffin literally risked his life (and eventually lost his life) because of his expose (which was eventually turned into the book Black Like Me) which revealed how difficult life was as a black person in America.
    Griffin’s life was threatened more than once when he revealed these truths. In the end, the process he used to darken his skin irreparably damaged his liver.
    I’m not saying that Dr. Oz has to go to the extremes that John Howard Griffin did. But it would be nice if he actually listened to the marginalized population that he was studying rather than simply continuing to make the same assumptions about them.

    • Hmmm… Snopes says “False” regarding the liver-damage claim. Griffin had serious health problems and a difficult life even before Black Like Me.

      But I still mostly get your point.

  20. I will never forgive Oprah for “making” this guy. I have no idea why people fawn all over him, or why they believe he has the answer to everyone’s health problems. Desperation is making him rich.

  21. Thanks for this, I was waiting to hear your take on it, and I agree with everything you said.

  22. I remember when Dr. Oz first started appearing on Oprah. I was a teenager and used to watch the show after school. I quite liked him initially. I thought he was nice, enthusiastic and explained things well. Then he began appearing on Oprah in relation to things that were not at all in his field of expertise, for instance an episode concerning individuals with OCD, there was a psychiatrist of some sort on I think, and then, inexplicably Dr. Oz was tagging along in the background like a kid on a field trip. Then he got his own show which I have only watched a couple of times. One of the episodes I saw was one in which he promoted supposedly non-harmful weight loss pills, and that was when I knew he had become a complete, shameless sell-out (and this was before I had discovered fat acceptance; you don’t need to know about fat acceptance to know that diet pills are NEVER a good idea though.) It’s pretty disgusting, especially since there is no need for him to be so sensationalist in order to get ratings and make lots of money. Oprah launched his career, and so lots of people came to trust him very quickly, he could do actual good without being any worse for wear financially, but this is the path he’s chosen instead.

  23. Hello Ragen, I just found this article on Medscape.com and thought you might be interested! Sounds like a big change – now just to convince new docs that this is valid!! Carol Music

  24. I haven’t seen the episode but I have an issue with the photos of the people in “fat suits”. They are all dressed like complete slobs. Sorry, but I’m fat, not a slob. Why would a fat person necessarily dress like a total schlub in way too small sweats. They are still discriminating by assuming fat = no pride in appearance and slovenly. I am disgusted that they couldn’t at least gauge people’s responses to someone dressed nicely and neatly and in clothes that were of the right size. Yes, I’m sure if one was 400 pounds that might be nearly impossible but I’ve seen a lot of individuals like myself who are heavy but still dress nicely and get our hair done. In fact I would say that my heavier friends put a lot of effort into their appearance and are often less schlubby than my thin friends who cannot understand why jeans and t-shirts are NOT appropriate for every..single…occasion….

    • I remember seeing a famous woman (Tyra Banks??) who put on a fat suit, and she insisted on dressing as fashionably as she did at her usual size. She was really surprised at how differently she was treated, even dressed up well.

      Not all people who put on fat suits dress badly, but all of them get to take the fat suit off at the end of the day.

    • “Yes, I’m sure if one was 400 pounds that might be nearly impossible….”

      Please clarify exactly what you think “might be nearly impossible” for someone who is 400 pounds. Your post was not very clear on that.

      • I get the impression that you angered very quickly to that statement and am not sure why. I think any woman who falls outside of the misses size range would understand that finding clothing can be a challenge. I wear a 24/26 and weight 275. I have a VERY hard time finding nice quality wearable clothing in that size. Even the plus size stores don’t carry a lot in sizes above a 24 US. Therefore, I would say that if one was simulating the experience of a 400 pound person’s life that they would have to look very hard to find nice stylish clothing. At lane Bryant I wear a 26 pant, slightly tailored after the purchase. I am looking at their online selection right now and it only goes up to 28 in most pants. Therefore I’d think it would be nearly impossible to find nice clothes if I weighed 35% more.

        This is not an incrimination against anyone who weighs 400 pounds but rather a commentary on the supply of clothing options for those of us who don’t fall within a certain size range.


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