Gardening, Fat People, and BS Infographics

You Forgot Your BullshitAbout once a week I get an e-mail from a completely clueless person who has obviously never read my blog who wants me to promote some article, or infographic or something that says some version of:

“Ooooga Booga deathfatzarecomingforyou!  Because of that I have made a ridiculous infographic created based on “information” that I gathered via rectal pull, that will perpetuate misinformation about weight and health as well as weight-based bigotry.  A search I conducted turned up your blog because it has “fat” in the name, so now I’m pretending that I’ve read it and understand your readers to try to get you to post this ridiculous bullshit.”

Today’s version came from Organic Lesson.  I know that a lot these infographics float around, and this one makes most of the common mistakes, so I thought I would break it down: Here is the graphic, it may be triggering (especially if you are triggered by abuse of statistics, fatphobia, and/or bullshit.) so feel free to scroll right past, or click to enlarge it to all its ridiculous bullshit glory…

ridiculous bullshit infographic

Talking about a change in “obesity” levels since 1980 without discussing the fact that the measurement was changed in 1998, altering millions of people’s BMI classification overnight (on recommendations from a committee that included representatives from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture diet drugs and the chief scientist of weight watchers) does not have the ring of sound science.

Pretending to know the “fundamental cause” of “obesity” is a laughable example of people thinking that “everybody knows” is the same thing as fact. The assumptions made about fat people – that they don’t already garden or eat vegetables for example – are nothing but stereotypes. And, like anything that tries to conflate weight with behavior and/or health, this infographic does a disservice to everyone.

There is (what could be) helpful information in this infographic about ways that gardening might support health in people of all sizes (knowing, of course, that health is complicated and multi-dimensional, not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness, not entirely within our control, not guaranteed under any circumstances, and not anybody else’s business unless we choose to make it their business.)

Unfortunately, because of their attempt to cash in on a culture of fatphobia to get clicks, they’ve couched gardening as something for fat people to do so that they will stop being fat. This is a problem both because there is no evidence that it will work (there’s no evidence that anything will make people less fat long term), and also because it contributes to a dangerous and false dialog that healthy habits won’t support fat people’s health unless they make us thinner, and that thin people are healthy by virtue of their size and regardless of their habits, neither of which is backed up by research.

It’s also hella disrespectful to fat gardeners since – as is often the fate of fat vegetarians, fat vegans, fat athletes, etc – it suggests that they must be “doing it wrong” since they have failed to achieve a change in body size (never mind that there is not a shred of evidence that suggests they would.)

Remember that when it comes to these “infographics,” it’s always viewer beware.

Activism Opportunity

Want to suggest that they create materials that encourage people to garden without all the misinformation and fatshaming?  Feel free to use their contact form to give them some feedback.

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Published in: on October 7, 2015 at 6:15 am  Comments (31)  

31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yep, as a passionate (and yes, still fat) gardener I would have preferred ditching the whole first half of the infographic (or scaregraphic). Also replace health with healthier or something less freaking ableist. I know *heaps* of gardeners with chronic health conditions who are still out there making the best of their situation.

    Also who gives a hoo-ha about food cravings. In fact, some might say gardening could increase non hungry eating. Freshly picked asparagus anyone? Burst in your mouth sun warmed tomato perhaps? Yummo! Note I am also totally pro-ornamental gardening. There is no obligation for anyone to want to grow their own food. Flowers are important too🙂

    • Mmmm, yes. Green beans, tomatoes, onions… been growing ’em for years.

      • I haven’t bothered with onions myself but really, the taste of home grown green beans & tomatoes is one of the great joys of food gardening!

        • YES! My grandpa’s garden had fresh green beans and that was my favorite thing to eat at their house. Good memories.🙂

    • We have been growing some flowers this summer. The pots stayed weed-free, but the others had so many weeds that they overpowered the flowers, and all you saw was crap. Real killer to get them out too (thistles have long roots).

      We used to grow peas, and when we picked them, none made it into the house.

      • Yes, as a permaculturist as well as gardener there is definitely chaos in my garden. Just think of weeds as important diversity🙂

  2. So gardening will lower my levels of stress hormones? And growing my own greens will promote healthy eating habits? Maybe.

    Hmmmm. I could grow my own marijuana plants. That’ll lower my stress level. Not sure about the healthy eating habits though. But marijuana is green, right? So this ought to work!

    • That plant to the guy’s left in the last panel does indeed appear to be that. Come to think of it, that flower on the other side of the stick figure looks quite a bit like a… poppy…

      Um… what current hot-button issue is this graphic supposed to be about again?

      • BWAHAHAHAAAAA! Thanks, so much! I needed that!

        Hey, maybe this artist is from Colorado? It’s legal there.

        • Well then, Colorado is the place we oughtta be…
          Better pack up the Rolls and move to .. well, you get the drift.

      • Yes!!! Let’s all get into the drug trade! At least we’re not in Columbia!

        • Should read Colombia.

    • Seeing as we just had a fight about the yard today, gardening in our house actually increases stress. Our yard is more like a small acreage. Too much to do. My mom said if she knew the yard would be like caring for a farm, she never would’ve bought it.

  3. I Would love to have a garden & grow my own veggies….I have but one problem, however. I live in am upstairs apartment. I have no yard. I don’t even have a balcony in which to do hanging plants. I guess, according to that handout, I am destined to a life of fatness (because I don’t have a yard). **Insert sarcasm & eyeroll** I actually find stuff like this turns me OFF of whatever they are trying to propose.

    • Trust me, you are not missing out by not having a yard. Some love it, but we hate ours. We could probably sell weeds and make a profit. And, wait for it, we’re still fat.

  4. My grandma was well over 300 lbs. for most of her life, and yet she grew the most beautiful flowers. Her yard was surrounded with them. My fat grandpa grew vegetables that he encouraged us kids to EAT right out of the DIRT! His garden actually created food cravings. Fresh peas right out of the pod! Yum!

  5. Wow, way to take a perfectly lovely hobby with dozens of beneficial side effects, and couch it in the most scientifically illiterate, OOGA BOOGA OBESITY EPIDEMIC terms possible. It’s like some kind of BS hat trick.

  6. And Death, whether it is Fatz, or some other Death, is coming for us all one day. As one of my favorite HS teachers used to joke with us: Life Is A Sexually Transmitted Terminal Disease! 😜 The aieeee! ZOMGObesityEpidemicPanic! hand wringing Chicken Littles are somehow convinced that being thin magically confers immortality

  7. I love the fact that apparently obesity is caused by an INCREASE in physical activity. Talk about new research! LOL

  8. The only things I noticed about gardening is:

    Fresh food, you can take pride in growing

    The smells of plants growing and producing a happy feeling of pride

    Increased production of vitamin D from being in the sun

    Decreased stress, unless you have pests or birds eating your crop.

    Over all, I garden and I am still fat.

  9. I got an “infographic” solicitation at work a couple of weeks ago. This one was about hydration and fat, and how we can all save ourselves from the fat by drinking water. It was really badly done, even outside of the BS messages, and so it gave me great pleasure to respond this way:

    Dear [Bad Infographic Peddlar]:

    Thanks for your note. We are indeed very interested in making sure that people are staying well hydrated for their health. However, the infographic’s factual inaccuracies, fat-shaming language, and original source (which appears to be a personal blog hawking a discredited liquid diet) make it unsuitable for our audience. I appreciate your understanding.

    With best wishes,

    [Fat me]

    • That reminds me of when one of my old coworkers claimed there is no such things as headaches or migraines, because she had been told by a “herbalist” (whom don’t even need to be licensed to practice where I live, that is why it is in ” “) that all “headaches and migraines are hydration problems.” that “it is the body breaking down due to lack of water”

      I was diagnosed with migraines 3ish years go, trust me if it was a hydration problem I would have it covered.

      Junk science at it’s finest really.

      • If our body broke down, it would ooze into a puddle of goo.

  10. Yep. While I was gathering data for an article that I’m not going to be writing after all, I ran across one diet success story after another that went like this: “I was fat, and then I started [name of diet], and now I am NOTFAT and oh by the way I don’t need an inhaler anymore/my headaches have stopped/my blood sugar has returned to normal/I found the third gear I never knew I had and did a walkathon while still fat BUT WHATEVS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT I AM THIN THIN THINNETY THIN THIN THINNNNN.” And I look at [diet] and I think how awesome it would be if it could be sold as “HEY PEOPLE WITH [CHRONIC CONDITION], try this and NO MORE FLAREUPS and oh also you may shrink BUT THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING AND THE MARKER OF SUCCESS IS NO MORE FLAREUPS.”

    How many people, I wonder, give up on diet and lifestyle changes because they feel a hell of a lot better but they look just the same?

  11. Baby steps by gardening??????
    Gardening is not simple. It’s not like you just get a bountiful harvest of diverse fruits and vegetables by simply planting things. Even if you’re a knowledgeable and experienced gardener there are times your crop just fails (I imagine… I am neither a knowledgeable or experienced gardener).
    Oh, I can replace an hour at the gym with three hours of gardening? SIGN ME UP!!
    If you’ve ever tried to keep weeds out of your garden, you might not find gardening that relaxing (says someone who constantly asks “did I plant that, or is it a weed?”).

    • Yessss!!!! That is exactly it.

  12. This feels like another one of those Fat Person Catch-22’s: if you don’t/can’t grow your own veggies, you’re just another one of those fatties who inhales processed convenience “junk” without tasting it, that’s why you’re fat, and you’re wrong to do it, but if you DO grow your own veggies, you’re just another one of those eating-obsessed fatties who has to have your greedy little paws in anything to do with food, THAT’S why you’re fat, and you’re wrong to do it. It’s the same damned if you do/damned if you don’t situation as cooking.

  13. I spent a lot of time and money on my garden. I bought plants at the nursery, as well as planting from seed. I threw my back out more times than I can tell taking care of that garden.

    I got one tomato.

    It’s the whole long-term weight-loss success ratio, in my garden.

    • Yikes. I feel that my back hasn’t gotten any better this year, it feels like things are moving around in my spine, plus I think I damaged the muscles around my knee (maybe the bone?) while doing pruning this spring. But then I was using improper shoes that day.

      Most of our produce died, but the sage plant came back this year!

      • Survival of the fittest! Best gardening strategy ever, IMO.

  14. I know this didn’t come from The Who because they said they won’t get fooled again….


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