Fats and ‘Crats

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

“If we could go back to the obesity rates of 1980 we could save the Medicare system a trillion dollars.” – Barack Obama during Democratic Presidential Debate, 12/13/07

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a fan of George Bush.  I am, in fact, one of those people who basically thinks a sock monkey could do a better job than our current president.  But I have to admit, I am personally happy that, aside from certain snarkbound comments made by various Surgeon Generals, he does not seem to have made eradication of fat people a high priority in his administration.  Who has time, when you have entire other countries to eradicate, and poor people to screw, and air and water and food to poison for the sake of sustaining oligarchy?

But we have an election coming up next year, and strictly from a fat perspective, I worry about who is going to replace him.  When I found out Barack Obama (much like Hillary Clinton, who has made similar remarks in the past) wanted to disappear me solely because of my weight in order to save the government money, I had to ask:  Just how far are they willing to go to make that a reality?

No, really, I want to know.  I’m willing to sacrifice a lot in order to make life better for poor people, gays, Muslims, waterboarding victims, and a whole lot of other folks who have been personally boned in the rear a lot more heavily than I have by the current administration.  I’m willing to sacrifice a lot for a cleaner environment, safer food, no war, no wiretapping or torturing just because you don’t like someone’s mustache, and more affordable housing for all.  Which is why I’m a Democrat. They may not be perfect, but at least they make a pass at giving a damn about those issues.

But I still think I have a right to know just how much agency they are willing to remove from people — and especially fatasses like myself — in the name of “health care cost containment.” You’d think the Democrats would be all about personal agency and individual freedom. They damn well ought to be. But I’m afraid that when it comes to nosing around in people’s body autonomy, they’re just as guilty as the people they want to replace; they just want to nose around in a different part of our bodies, that’s all.

Here are some questions I’d love to see asked during Presidential debates (and not just of Democrats):

“Do you believe in reducing the number of fat people by any means necessary? What if people really make an effort to exercise and ‘eat right’ but are still ‘obese’? Do you favor requiring them to have bariatric surgery, or putting them in weight-reduction prisons, or having a police state in which people get their homes broken into and their pantries cleaned out and forced at gunpoint to work out until they drop, or being barred from all restaurants and grocery stores and all public places until they slim down? How far are you willing to go?”

And bonus question:

“If certain medications have been demonstrated to foster weight gain, do you favor taking them off the market, even if they make it possible for a person to live something approaching a ‘normal’ life in every respect except weight? There are, after all, many more of these drugs on the market than in 1980, and many have attained very high levels of usage. Do you really want to take them away from people to make them thin?”

Not that I expect real, informed answers from any of ’em. They’ll probably mumble something about how, of course they don’t want to round us all up and amputate our stomachs, of course they don’t want to impinge upon our personal freedoms, of course of course of course. All they want is for us fatasses to eat our vegetables and exercise, and most all of us will magically get and stay thin and never have costly health problems again! And if they’re Democrats they’ll probably also mumble something about how they’ll give the veggies away, if they have to, along with the pots, pans, stoves, cooking classes and electricity required to prepare all those nummy orange-and-greens. Oh, and of course, we must think of the children, and take all the skin off their chicken before they are doomed to a life of FAAAAT! Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha. Rich people really don’t get it, do they? And who the hell else can run for president and win?

The whole issue of removing personal agency to make people “healthier” should be a serious concern for everyone, regardless of weight. In this country, we allow adults to refuse to take medications or have surgeries or submit to other medical treatment at their own discretion, even if it goes against the recommendation of doctors. The one exception is putting someone on temporary psychiatric hold if they are deemed to be a direct and immediate threat to themselves or someone else, but even there, a fairly stringent standard of evidence applies — unless the person actually says, “I plan to commit suicide or homicide,” or someone sees them actually physically carrying it out, you can’t just “put someone away.” And even then you can only do so as long as the immediate threat continues to exist. I don’t know what the laws are in other countries that have government-sponsored health care in terms of patients being allowed to refuse doctor-recommended treatment modalities, but I would imagine that in most cases they are similar — if you are an adult, ultimately you are the one who gets to decide what gets put into your body (or your child’s) and what doesn’t. (If you have information to the contrary, feel free to correct me.)

As someone who has transcribed and edited thousands of medical reports, I can tell you that people refuse treatment all the time, and not simply at the end stages of their illnesses. I myself have refused to take statins against my doctor’s recommendation, because frankly, I don’t trust the damn things and haven’t seen any evidence they prevent heart disease in women, and thus aren’t worth the risk to me. My doctor may not agree with my decision, but he is not going to refuse to treat me unless I take statins. Might people refusing treatment at certain times in their lives “drive up health care costs”? Sure. If you wait, oftentimes the condition becomes more grave and expensive to treat in the long run. It’s a risk. But it’s a risk we allow people to take without forfeiting future care, and they do so routinely.

Don’t people have the same agency when it comes to refusal to diet (or even “eat right and exercise” HAES-style)? Even if they are fat? Even if they are really, really, really, no-kidding-around fatfatfat? I don’t happen to binge on soda and fries, but if I wanted to, isn’t that my right, and who’s to say that’s necessarily the “self-destructive” choice? Wouldn’t you rather I consumed comfort food when upset than, say, killed myself or someone else, or even drove like a maniac or got into a fistfight or screamed at someone at work or at home who didn’t deserve to get screamed at? Is “eating badly and not exercising” really the worst thing I can possibly do? Is there really that much of a difference between, “I hate salad, exercise bores me to death, and I’d rather watch television, I’ve already given society my pound of flesh so leave me the hell alone,” and “I refuse drug X/treatment X/surgery X, just because I don’t want it or I’m not ready for that now”? Just how much agency do we want to remove from people to make them “healthy”?

Because, you know, mental health counts too. And having someone holding the highest office in the land who would rather kill me than treat me like a human being is not going to do wonders for mine.

Cross-posted to Shakesville.

33 Responses to “Fats and ‘Crats”

  1. Nicole Says:

    I heard Obama’s comment last night and thought to myself, “Well, Barack, here’s one Yellow Dog Democrat Fat Girl who will not be voting for you anytime soon.”

    A trillion dollars? Seriously? Does he think we’re stupid?

  2. JoGeek Says:

    I’ve been pretty impressed so far with Obama’s intelligence. I’ve watched him answer questions, I’ve watched him give a talk at Google headquarters and he strikes me as a very rational man with real intelligence. That being said, I think that before we write someone off as stupid, we might consider that he may just be ignorant. Remember that the information isn’t really out there for people to see unless they’re really looking for it. At least with Obama I think there’s a chance of changing his mind if we present the evidence to him. The others? Not sure they’d even make the effort.

  3. fillyjonk Says:

    Remember that the information isn’t really out there for people to see unless they’re really looking for it.

    And this particular piece of information came from a “candidate briefing book” put out by a liberal think tank, with no substantiation, credited to the CDC and the Commonwealth Fund, neither of whom had ever heard of it.

    He’s not stupid, but neither is he interested in checking out the provenance of his dubious-sounding numbers.

  4. wriggles Says:

    I too have noticed the subltlety and intelligence of Obama’s mind but he’s fallen into the same trap as everyone else. So many are it’s hard to be that critical.

    The fact is that we are not a shadowy group that hangs out in the margins( not that it would be acceptable to discriminate, but misunderstandings would be easier to catch hold) we are known to millions who choose to believe the crisis, hell many fat people believe it and it’s happening in their own bodies! This is not like any other disagreement or debate, it’s really like a religion that’s catching in spite of reality, reason and logic, so can it be defeated by such? It feels almost as if people are just going to have to get bored with it, for it to be derailed.

  5. wriggles Says:

    Oops ‘subtlety’.

  6. Harriet Says:

    Great and sobering post. How does Edwards stack up?
    i would think he’d be a bit more informed.

  7. kateharding Says:

    Nice work, Meowser.

    I’ve been waiting for this for a while. None of the candidates have the balls to just say, “We need universal health insurance, and it’s gonna cost a LOT.” It’s all, “I have a plan for universal health insurance, but we’re going to do everything possible to keep the costs down, which means blaming everyone who gets sick, so we can keep the option of not insuring them. Especially fat people.”

  8. JoGeek Says:

    I think that instead of writing him off, I’m going to try writing TO him first, and Hillary, and Edwards, and Richardson. Since all the candidates are pretty much equally uninformed on this issue, I wonder what would happen if everyone sent off a letter copied to all the likely candidates of their party with some reading material, studies, good contacts and reccomended reading? If I had to hedge bets I’d say Obama and Richardson would be the two who really listened and changed their outlooks. It’ll take a pretty widespread response to stand out from the fan mail during the campaign season when they don’t even have time to scratch, but it’s worth a try.

  9. meowser Says:

    This post is now cross-posted to Shakesville! I’m so excited that Liss wanted to do that!

  10. Jamie Says:

    Is “eating badly and not exercising” really the worst thing I can possibly do?

    You know what, until you wrote that, I had not properly been able to put into words the GUILT I can be made to feel by not exercising daily and not cooking up 9(?) servings of fruits/vegetables a day.

    Some days, before I became informed about the so-called “obesity epidemic”, I would literally feel like an entire failure based on whether I ate well or exercised that day. It was horrible and I thank myself for having the strength to get out of that.

    What I find with elections is that there are trendy topics to discuss. “We want a healthier nation (duh, who doesn’t?) so… um… what does everyone think is unhealthy? Fat people! Ok, so, let’s help the fat people!” *Applause* I’m glad we have presidential candidates that are informed (right). I guess you can’t expect our next president to actually have any legitimate research to back up their claims. Too much to ask, these days, apparently.

  11. vesta44 Says:

    It’s really too bad that all the politicians don’t have their heights and weights publicly posted somewhere. It would be interesting to see how many of them who think they are “normal” BMI are actually overweight or obese. And how many of them actually know they are in those categories by their BMI. I wonder what they would think if they had an obese BMI and were classed with me, with a BMI of 59? Because you know every obese person is just like the headless fatties shown with all the OMGOBESITYEPIDEMIC hysteria articles (even though people of my BMI are probably only about 2% of all overweight/obese people, but we’re the ones used to illustrate how fat our nation is).

  12. meowser Says:

    One thing I thought of: If Obama or Clinton or Dodd is your senator, or Kucinich is your congressperson, or Richardson is your governor, you might have more “territorial pull” when contacting them than those of us who live elsewhere. (Edwards doesn’t currently hold office, but even there, someone in North Carolina might have his ear more than the rest of us.) Of all of them, I would think Kucinich would be the most likely to respond well to what we have to say…and unfortunately the least likely to have any shot at the nomination. But I’ll take resistance wherever I can get it.

  13. roughmagic Says:

    Thanks for this poet — we need to keep reminding people how pervasive fat hate is — even among the “good guys.”
    Your comment about fat camps made me smile, only because I wrote a story (“The Food Artist”) over ten years ago about this very thing, which Marilyn Wann published in the first issue of Fat!So? It’s still online there if people want to wince at how close reality is getting to yesterday’s speculative fiction.

  14. mainegal Says:

    Barack doesn’t really care if you’re overweight as long as you’re healthy (i.e., not utilizing any additional health care because of it). If you’re overweight but healthy, you’re not affecting health care costs at all. He should have said something more along those lines.

  15. meowser Says:

    Do you have a link, or some other kind of attribution for that, mainegal? I wouldn’t mind seeing that in a little more detail.

    Ah, but what if you’re “overweight” and you do happen to have “costly health care conditions,” but would probably have the same “costly” conditions at any weight? Or what if your weight is partly caused by your health conditions and treatments, rather than the other way around? That’s certainly the case with me.

    Also, I’m not entirely convinced that a condition like, say, adult-onset diabetes is “caused” by a person’s weight. I think the relationship there is a lot more chicken-egg.

  16. mainegal Says:

    As long as you are trying to manage your condition as recommended by your physician, then you are acting completely responsibly and are probably much more of an asset to the health care system then a lot of other people. I am in the benefits field, and some companies now are imposing surcharges on their employees that have “preventable” costly health care conditions but don’t try to manage them (smoking is one of them -I’ve seen up to $600 surcharge PER condition). The definition of preventable can get hairy, but the person’s doctor is involved in that determination. So it seems to me that based on what you said, if you are working on your health problems with your doctor who can concur that your condition isn’t completely preventable, such a surcharge would not apply to you. Health care is a tricky topic…but I still believe that if you’re trying to be as healthy as you can be, your weight or BMI or whatever should not be a factor. But would YOU personally be willing to pay more for health care because someone else with a preventable condition doesn’t do what they can to manage it? I believe (and this is a personal belief, not based on any scientific data) that most people would not be okay with that.

  17. Feministe » Whaddaya gonna do about it? Says:

    […] if I didn’t highlight Meowser’s terrific post, at Shakesville and cross-posted at Fat Fu, in response to this comment by Barack Obama: “If we could go back to the obesity rates of […]

  18. Shinobi Says:

    This is actually one of the major reasons I do not support the government being involved in my health care. (Besides the considerable bungling,beaurocracy and politics involved in just about everything they do.) I want my doctor to be the one who makes decisions about my health care, not the government.

    Also, I find it REALLY interesting that Obama cited these statistics about fat people, and completely neglected the Smokers. Smoking is many times worse for your health despite what media attention would have you believe.

    I’m going to write MR. Obama a letter as I am a constituent of his. If anyone has any recommendations for websites I can refer him to, etc, please let me know.

  19. meowser Says:

    But would YOU personally be willing to pay more for health care because someone else with a preventable condition doesn’t do what they can to manage it? I believe (and this is a personal belief, not based on any scientific data) that most people would not be okay with that.

    Hm, sticky wicket, that. My answer, though, is “yes.” And I’ll tell you why. I simply don’t think denying people health care is going to make them any healthier. And people aren’t perfect. At some point in their lives everyone will do something that is potentially costly to their fellow man — or to themselves. Everyone. I don’t smoke, and if I did I wouldn’t smoke in bed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want the fire department to be sent over to someone’s house if they happen to fall asleep with a lit cigarette.

  20. Mari Says:


  21. Peg Says:

    This is a great post Meowser!

    Also in response to this comment:
    “But would YOU personally be willing to pay more for health care because someone else with a preventable condition doesn’t do what they can to manage it? I believe (and this is a personal belief, not based on any scientific data) that most people would not be okay with that.”

    ABSOLUTELY I would. Everyone should have the same access to health care regardless of any characteristic (race/ethnicity, gender, age, health status, health habits). To deny people health care to save money is just cruel. Period. People are flawed. Illness and death are part of life. People vary in their beliefs and capacities, but we don’t choose our beliefs or develop capacities out of thin air. We are all shaped by the circumstances of our individual lives and we need to take care of each other as best we can.

    Also, in order to be fair, of if you are going to withhold care or charge some people extra for care because of “preventable” conditions, you better make sure that you have absolutely incontrovertible proof that a condition is preventable and you must also make sure that you are doing this with EVERY so-called preventable condition.

    Isn’t Obama a smoker by the way?

  22. meowser Says:

    Yes, allegedly Obama has been a smoker, although I don’t know if he’s quit since then. Supposedly, though, smokers “cost the health care system” less because they die younger than nonsmoking fatasses. What I don’t get, though, is why he thinks a massive government program to slim people down is going to cost less money than just letting us be.

    Look, I have no problem whatsoever with more bike paths, better availability of high-quality produce, or any of that stuff. I’m all in favor of it. If that’s all he wants to do it’s fine with me. But if he’s serious about getting two-thirds of currently “obese” people out of that range, it’s gonna take a lot more than that.

  23. Sniper Says:

    I believe (and this is a personal belief, not based on any scientific data) that most people would not be okay with that

    Maybe you’re right and most people are unfeeling, judgmental assholes. With that in mind, here’s a list of people who should be denied basic health care.

    1. People who give birth. Don’t tell me they couldn’t have prevented it!

    2. People who play sports. Don’t they know you can get hurt that way?

    3. People in high stress jobs. If they had any sense they’d stop arresting people, fighting fires, caring for the sick, and controlling air traffic and take some meditation classes instead.

    4. People who live in unsafe neighborhoods. Slackers!

    5. Preemies!If they’d just clung to the womb a little harder, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

    6. Old people. Statistically, they’re a huge drain on the system, and what have they ever done for anyone?

    7. People who live near power lines, chemical factories, nuclear power plants, etc. Don’t they have any sense of personal responsibility?

    8. People who have a genetic vulnerability to illnesses and don’t have the grace to kill themselves before they become a drain on the health care system.

    Do I need to add sarcasm tags?

  24. mainegal Says:

    I’m feeling a little misunderstood. Just to be clear, I wasn’t implying that people with preventable diseases be DENIED health care, just charged more if they aren’t working to prevent their condition so that the people who DO work on preventing such conditions don’t have to foot the bill. Never once did I mention denying healthcare to anybody.
    Once again, if you try to manage your condition, you should not be singled out. Manage only means try to follow your doctor’s recommendations.

  25. vesta44 Says:

    mainegal, the problem there is defining what is preventable and what is not. According to doctors, obesity is preventable and so is diabetes (type 2). They will also tell you that some cancers are preventable (what about the non-smoker who gets lung cancer?). And you want to charge people more if they get a preventable disease when it already costs more than a lot of people can afford to treat it? The whole point of insurance is to spread the risk among a large group of people. It’s a gamble that not all of them are going to get catastrophic illnesses and need to use that insurance, and the insurance companies knew that when they went into business. But it’s a business for them and they care more about profits than they do about people nowadays (just ask the people who’ve had loved ones die because their HMO denied medical care).
    I can guarantee you that I followed my doctor’s recommendations every time I was put on a diet, but I was labeled non-compliant when I didn’t lose as much weight as she thought I should have and started regaining that lost weight (because I’m fat, I’m also a liar, you know?). Would you make me pay more for her services then? It’s a slippery slope when you say that people who have preventable diseases should pay more, because no two people are going to agree on what’s preventable and what’s not.

  26. Sarah Says:

    mainegal – In other words, people should be punished for the personal choices they make. People should have to “pay” if they make a choice society has decided is “wrong” or “unhealthy.”

    So, where do you draw the line at this? Should races that are genetically wired to certain diseases have to pay more? Since white and Asian women are more apt to get osteoporosis, should they pay more?

    Really, how Orwellian should we let society become? Should we ship off obese people to fat “camps” for the safety of society?

    And isn’t it interesting that thin people who suffer from major diseases that cost a bundle NEVER get a lecture? It’s just the fatties.

  27. J. M. Cornwell Says:

    I’d be interested to know just how many of those Medicare dollars were spent on appetite suppressants, bariatric surgery, weight loss, etc. and how much was actually spent on the elderly and those with mental problems, addictions, etc. I’ll bet the information would be quite revealing.

  28. Jimi Says:

    I agree that the fat vote will be very important this year and it seems that others now think so as well. It is even getting some media coverage as can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIAkQWXfxmQ

  29. meowser Says:

    Hah, that is some pretty funny stuff. Good ol’ Onion.

    I did find it hilarious (in a sad way) to see Huckabee upbraid Romney for taking the skin off his fried chicken, when we all know Huck can’t eat the stuff himself due to his own (cough) restrictive diet.

  30. Fat More Dangerous than Terrorism? « PhotoPhobic Says:

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  31. witchygirl Says:

    “But would YOU personally be willing to pay more for health care because someone else with a preventable condition doesn’t do what they can to manage it? I believe (and this is a personal belief, not based on any scientific data) that most people would not be okay with that.”

    But doesn’t that, by definition, include a whole lot of (presumably not fat/obese) anorexics/bulimics whose ‘preventable condition’ is putting a strain on the health service and putting up premiums?
    Surely ALL unhealthy people put a strain on health services, not just the ones who are unhealthy and happen to have a BMI over 25.

  32. Blimp Says:

    It certainly is refreshing to read a post that doesn’t fit into the liberal/conservative/moderate system. This post demonstrates the kind of thinking that builds sovereign, independent republics and breaks the grip of empires. An appeal to reason, rather than an emotional, sports-fan-like display of one’s party or category affinity!

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