Friday, July 18, 2008

Fat People Need An Intervention

Last Sunday while flipping through the channels I came across the show  Intervention on A&E.  Every time I have seen this program it has been about people battling their addiction to drugs or alcohol. This past week the show was extended to cover those that the medical establishment has labelled  morbidly obese.  I sat there dumb founded as they portrayed Josh, as this poor pathetic man without critically engaging about the fact that societies attitude towards fat plays a great role in his self esteem.

Fatness is projected as some illness that needs to be cured.  Yes a fat person may have a stroke, or a heart attack tomorrow but you know what, the same can happen to a skinny person. You don't know when your number is up. It could be in five minutes or years from now. If fatness was not stigmatized to the degree that it is people would experience a greater satisfaction with their lives.   Fatness is either ridiculed, treated as a disease, or made invisible in our society.  When one must face such an onslaught of negativity daily is it any wonder that desperation, and depression ensue.

As I watched this segment it was clear to me that he had many unresolved issues due to physical abuse from his father as a child but what he "needed help" with was his weight.  It seems to me that no matter what "addiction", he may have been suffering with, until that issue was dealt with, any treatment would be unsuccessful. If we are going to engage with weight we need to do so critically. We need examine the ways in which we use weight as an excuse to other, minimize, and exploit. It did not occur to A&E to delve into the culpability of the diet industry, even though Josh spoke about the various diets that he had attempted.  Yo-Yo dieting will increase weight, and the diet industry is dependent upon people trying these fad diets and failing.  It did not occur to A&E to critique the media that produces movies like the Nutty Professor that create fat people as objects to be ridiculed.  It did not occur to A&E to look at the medical industry that has pitched biatric surgery as a "cure" to fatness, while they line their pockets, reaping profits on peoples insecurities.

I object to them promoting an intervention for fat people without putting the whole issue into context.  It simply looks like Josh is this individual that has no self control, and has no life because of his weight.  Even though the video showed that he was talented entertainer, and a successful entrepreneur, that was skillfully minimized in an attempt to portray his weight as the only significant factor in his life.  No matter what oppression one must negotiate in life, it simply is not the only signifier of identity.  If we are going to deal with issues in this society, we need to examine them critically,  we need to understand who benefits from the perpetuation of certain ideas.  It may be one individual carrying the weight, but obesity is a cultural phenomenon.


10 comments:

Maria said...

the one who needs an intervention is obviously his asshole "I hope I don't have to take a 2x4 to my kids" father. How is this just skimmed over?

Tomi said...

Hi, I've been reading your blog for a few months and I absolutely love it!

I agree with your point about the underlying and societal issues that should have been addressed, but in addition I would also argue that obesity is something that needs to be addressed NOW.

Just like anorexia or bulimia, obesity and overeating WILL kill you, it is a matter of when and how, not if. While addressing the underlying issues is crucial to recovery, the goal is to begin losing weight in a healthy way as soon as possible. When anorexics get intervention, medical treatment comes before anything else. Every day that the heart has to strain pumping blood throughout the body of an obese person is another moment off their life. Did you know that losing just 1 pound takes 4 pounds of weight off of the knee joints? While "fatness" is not a disease, morbid obesity definitely is.

Obesity is killing Black women, and we need to start taking it seriously NOW. Many Black women who are also overweight have very positive body image and self-esteem, despite not fitting the mold that the media says everyone should fall into. Being fine with your body "as is" is a great thing, but unfortunately for many Black women this also means ignoring the serious and deadly health consequences that occur on the heavy side of thick. Just because you and your man like it, doesn't mean that it won't kill you.

Your post wasn't about Black women, so maybe I'm derailing a bit but this issue is very close to my heart. Black women are being attacked from all sides--but taking control of our health is something that we can do for ourselves. My family is originally from Nigeria, where curvy bodies and big bootys are celebrated, but you would be hard pressed to find an obese person. While Black women do have more natural curves than people of other races, the difference is not as much as people make it out to be. When my friends try to tell me that Black women are just naturally bigger, I ask them to take a look at West African women. If that myth doesn't hold true for "pure" Black women, it should be no different for their sisters across the ocean.

Renee said...

Thanks for reading Tomi..I appreciate everything that you had to say in your commentary regarding the health issue of obesity, however the conversation also needs to extend to how we as a society promote and stigmatize it.

DiosaNegra1967 said...

@ renee: you know what i find fascinating? that people will blame others for their fatness and making "poor food choices", but no one (that is, from the media) has ever addressed why there is little to no access to fresh veggies and fruits , not to mention, supermarkets themselves in urban (read: poor and inner city) areas?

think: if people had access to affordable fresh produce, wouldn't they buy some?

most times (again, speaking from experience), any produce you find in a urban area, is usually of low quality and expensive to boot...

hey, if you've got yourself and 2 or 3 kids to feed and only have $20...what do you do? you buy whatever can feed your family for what you can afford....and in urban areas that translates to...you guessed it...fast food

and, to drive home the point, there are more fast-food places located in poorer neighborhoods than anywhere else...save for a shopping mall or a well-travelled highway...

@ tomi: "thin" does not equate with "healthy" either....and NOT all big black women have great self-esteem, ...lemme tell ya from experience! we have to FIGHT for each and every ounce of it...

not to mention, we are talking about extremes at BOTH ends of the spectrum here....there are those of us who live somewhere "in the middle" y'know...

we live in a culture that promotes the "you are good, if you look good" attitude....the person can look hella good on the outside, but be jacked-up beyond belief on the inside...just as long as you "look good"....

as for being "fine with our bodies "as is"...black women have received the indoctrination of being "strong" and that usually means not showing any emotion when you're hurt....which we are on a constant basis....black women in america are told we're ugly, fat, loud, obnoxious, uneducated, lazy, ignorant, smelly, and no one wants to be with us...not only by the media...but by our own men and communities....so, we'll give off the impression that we're fine...but we're hurting....or, at least some of us are...

i believe in personal responsibility regarding food choices as a rule, however, don't lump everyone all into the same category...and, please, for the love of humanity...don't quote tired old "health" stats as a way of showing "concern"...

just wondering: have you gone to any pro-ana blogs or websites and addressed them similarly on the dangers of anorexia and bulimia? or is it just "fat black women" that concerns you greatly...because as we get bombarded with unattainable images on a daily basis, showing us what we must look like to "have it all"...anorexia and bulimia are gaining popularity within the black community as we speak...believe it.

note: this country as a whole needs to leave fast food alone...as it is nasty, chemical and hormone-laden and basically non-nutritious...people have got to start fighting for and seeking out better food sources for themselves and their families.....

Renee said...

@Diosa I agree that class plays a huge role on obesity and particularly childhood obesity When a box of kraft dinner is 1.29 and a head of broccoli can be as high as as 1.79 people will "choose" the fat, high starch food. Combine this with the fact that parents are unable to pay for extra curicular activities to burn off excess calories and we have a generation dealing with extreme weight issues.

DiosaNegra1967 said...

@ renee: "..Combine this with the fact that parents are unable to pay for extra curricular activities to burn off excess calories and we have a generation dealing with extreme weight issues."

remember when you were able to go outside and jump double-dutch, hopscotch, ride a bike, rollerskate....or just run around and act a fool as a kid?

...not anymore, as parents live in fear of their kids being snatched by pedophiles or getting shot in a drive-by.

Danny said...

As far as I'm concerned all those diet pills, plans, and whatnot are the end product of someone's get rich quick scheme.

think: if people had access to affordable fresh produce, wouldn't they buy some?

Not only is access to healthy food a problem in the inner city and urban areas but it is also a problem in the out of the way rural areas too. I'm from the country where there is plenty of farmland for crops and pretty good fishing but don't think that the majority of those crops/catches are kept in the area. Out of towners will pay a lot more for fresh produce and seafood (if anyone reading this lives in a major non-costal city think about how much a pound of fresh crab meat costs) which leaves the locals looking on as the trucks upon trucks of fresh local product is shipped off.


Another problem is by the time that "fresh" product gets to the city its been frozen, pumped/sprayed with preservitives, and carried a few hundred miles. How fresh is that?

Guy Vestal said...

The "Fat Problem" is an easy fix!

Put Cosmo, Elle, Marie Claire, Vogue, and other print media operations that promote size 0 as the zenith of human perfection out of f'ing business. (That includes sh*tbag rags like FHM, Maxim, Playboyairbrushedtoallh*ll, and the rest of the trash as well.)

Then take that d'mnd f'ing television, hit it with a f'ing sledgehammer, and toss the rotting f'ing detritus out the back door.

Then join the war against "Big Sugar", and don't stop until all of the sugar overlords are hanging from the nearest flagpole like WWII Mussolini.

Those big grocery chains that refuse to level the playing field for organic & healthy foods need to be abandoned until the tumbleweeds rolling through their parking lots let them know that the almighty dollar does make even more of a difference when the decision is in the hands of the people standing in their lines.

I have type II diabetes, I have lost over 80 lbs. But I did it not because I wanted to stop being "fat", but because I was ready to vomit in my mouth every ten seconds thinking of what kind of fool I had been letting big marketing firms decide what was good for me, and what was not.

And the "poverty crutch" is just that. We are as poor as you can get around these parts, but that does not stop us from taking personal responsibility for our own lives, and doing what we can to stay a step ahead of the marketers that are determined to shove whatever their client says needs to be shoved in our faces.

Sorry for the attitude, but my wife is a BBW, and I could not imagine myself with some size 0, boney, anorexia ridden, lack of self-esteem, wretch that is more concerned with that mirror than herself and the world around her.

Men are no different! We get the same filth shoved down our throats... Bowflex this, penis size that, sixpack ab the other, get tan, get laid, pimp it and play it, hit it and quit it...

We as a society are where we are at today because we CHOOSE to listen to those that tell us they know what is best for us, instead of deciding for ourselves.

Guy Vestal said...

Ooops... Sorry about the rant. But the subject hit a button I hate being hit. :-)

Renee said...

Don't apologize...Fat hate is disgusting. Call out what you need to call out womanist musings is a safe space.