Friend of Marilyn

*Fatlicious

On super fat packing June 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 3:20 am

As I’ve shared before, I’m on sabbatical for the second half of this year. I have the privilege of spending seven months in Germany (with short trips around Europe to collaborate with Fat Studies scholars and activists). Packing for a long trip is difficult; trying to cultivate a 3 season wardrobe into two suitcases feels insurmountable at the onset.

Lots of people who I spoke to about this were sympathetic, but then quick to quirk that I can simply buy what I need there. And that suggestion was always said with a wink and a nudge; ya know, you’ll HAVE TO buy new wardrobes in Europe and what a hardship that will be. Sometimes I just smiled and played along, but usually I took it as an opportunity to help them check their privilege.

“I can’t be guaranteed that any stores there will carry clothes that will fit me, so that’s not really a good way to plan for someone who is super fat, like me.”

This usually returned blank stares or dawning horror as it never occurred to them that clothing options are limited if you’re above a 18 (and even more so when you’re a 34/36 like me). I usually continued on, just to drive the point home.

“I’m sized out of all the clothes stores here in NZ. So, if I need something, I have to order it online and wait for it to arrive. And hope it fits well. Or at all.”

So, packing for my seven month trip to Europe is filled with more anxiety than anything else. Because I can’t just stroll into a shop and buy what I need. (Luckily, the same places that ship to NZ will definitely ship to Germany, so I will have access, albeit slow access, to additional options).

What I’ve done is twofold.

First, I’ve a definite colour scheme. I’ve gone with white, black, and red. Now, I wear a lot more blue than anything else, but I had key pieces in red (turtleneck and stretch tank top) that made red my best accent colour.

Second, I’ve curated a wardrobe where everything can go from summer to winter (except the heavy duty winter stuff).

So, for example, take this sundress.

Me and Substantia Jones of The Adipositivity Project (she was a keynote at FSNZ16)

It’s perfect for hot summer days. If I add leggings (& maybe a black duster jacket) it’s good for cooler Fall weather. And if I put a turtleneck on first, and switch the leggings for thick tights, I’ve got a winter outfit! And I can change between three turtlenecks (in white, black, red) and three leggings (guess the colours) and three tights (ahem, you’ve got this, right?), and I’ve technically got 13 different outfits (feel free to check my math) in this one dress & accompaniments.

This is how I’ve planned to fit seven months into two suitcases. I’ll report back on Twitter over the next several months about how I’m going (follow me for lots of super fatting around Europe! @FOMNZ). I’d love to hear from other super fats what challenges they encounter when packing for trips – and any hacks they’ve worked out to make that part of travelling less of a hassle!

 

On the International Handbook of Fat Studies April 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 5:37 am

Call for Papers
International Handbook of Fat Studies

Cat Pausé and Katie LeBesco are editing the International Handbook of Fat Studies for Routledge; publication intended for 2019. At this time, the editors are inviting those interested in contributing a chapter to the handbook to submit an abstract and outline of proposed chapter for consideration. People of colour, activists, and those from outside of the United States are especially encouraged to submit.
Fat Studies is a post-disciplinary field of study that confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body”; explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world; and theorises how society conceptualises and pathologises fat bodies. Fat Studies scholars identify and discuss mainstream and alternative discourses on fatness, analyse size as a social justice issue at the intersection of oppression, and critically appraise size oppression as it is manifested in various societal institutions (medicine, media, education, etc).
Handbooks are not intended as a textbook, but as a single-volume reference work aimed at academics and postgraduates working in areas related to fat studies generally. Each essay in the Handbook is effectively a “position paper,” a state-of-the-art overview of a branch of the subject. This being the case, each essay is expected to
• Provide a substantial review of the main ideas and debates in the subject through a review of the literature, outlining the historical development of ideas in the field
• Assess the main methodologies/paradigms in the field today, outline the main questions which the subject has sought or seeks to address, describe the current research agendas, analyze how the subject does or does not draw on related disciplines (or practices/professions if appropriate), and how it has or can explore key concerns (ethical, epistemological, etc)
• Outline the likely future of the field, possible developments, new research directions

Chapter proposals should include an abstract and an outline for the proposed chapter; these are due by 5 August, 2017. Invitations to produce a full chapter will be sent to authors in August, with full chapters due in early December, 2017. Each chapter will 7000-7500 words (including notes and references). Files should be named with the author’s surname followed by _fshb (Jones_fshb). Please include contact information in the body of the email, and ensure your submission includes the title of your chapter, an abstract, outline for the chapter, and a short bio for the author(s).

Questions, concerns, and submissions should be sent to Cat c.pause@massey.ac.nz

 

On my sabbatical in Europe March 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 6:28 pm

I have such exciting news to share – I am going to Europe! That’s right, from July 2017- Jan 218, I will be based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany.

I am so very excited about this opportunity to work with Fat Studies scholars and fat activists across Europe; it’s like a dream come true.

I’m also hoping I’ll be invited to do seminars, like “Not your good fatty” and “Fat pedagogies in practice”, and workshops, like “Body politics, ethics, and you” and “Using social media to promote your research”, across Europe.

You can find out more about my work and the kinds of seminars and workshops on offer in this document: PauséC Flyer 2017

If you’re located in Europe – and want to get together to collaborate on research, run a day long Fat Studies symposium, host a one-off fat activism event, or just share a good meal, please get in contact with me and let me know! You can find me on Twitter at @FOMNZ, Facebook at Friend of Marilyn, or you can email me at friendofmarilyn@aol.com

 

On celebrating fat black women February 4, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 6:34 pm

With Black history month and Women’s history month both at the start of the year in the USA, I’ve been seeing lots of lists about incredible black women in US history. I’ve enjoyed reading through these lists, but it hasn’t escaped my attention that very few of women on any of these lists are fat. And I know there are amazing fat black women to celebrate, so I thought I’d make my own list.

 

Ariel Woodson

Ariel Woodson is ½ of Bad Fat Broads. The podcast presents the bad fat broad’s perspective on all things important. Regular segments include dumpster fires on the Internet and who they no longer know; they brought the show live to the Allied Media Conference in 2016, and that was extra fatlicious. I’ve heard Ariel describe herself as fat Kim Kardashian, and I’m so very glad I get to hear her educate (and complain!) on a regular basis!

 

Latasha Ngwube

Latasha Ngwube is the creator of #AboutThatCurvyLife, a plus size lifestyle online magazine out of Nigeria. ATCL is “Africa’s largest platform embracing the plus-size community”; she is also an Assistant Editor of Vanguard’s Allure magazine. Latasha was recently successful in persuading Lagos Fashion Week to include plus size models on the runways, and she participates in Pop Us Plus, a quarterly market for fat women in Nigeria. Tune into my show in May to hear her interview!

 

Sonya Renee Taylor


I had the joy to spend time with Sonya Renee Taylor, of The Body is Not An Apology, on several occasions across the last year. Sonya is a poet, activist, entrepenuer, and all around bad-ass. She founded The Body is Not An Apology, a group that works to produce “sustainable social change, community, and personal health and wellness” through “a foundation of deep radical self-love.”

 

Stephanie Yeboah

Stephanie Yeboah of Nerd About Town is based in the UK. She’s a “plus size style influencer” and wears the greatest coats I’ve ever seen (seriously, Stephanie, fill my closet with these coats!) Because we are in different hemispheres, I often bookmark a post, like her recent Spring/Summer wishlist, to go back to when Spring rolls around for me in the South Pacific. She posts about fashion, beauty, and fatness; check out a recent apology to her body that she posted on the site.

 

Tay of QueenAppleBuuum

Let me tell you about my newest addition to my art collection. It’s gorgeous, and from QueenAppleBuuum. She’s titled, Chocolate Drop, and she is delightful. The artist is Tay, and you can find Tay on Twitter too. On the QAB website, you can find other pieces of art for sale, and contact the artist about commissions. My office is full of fat art, collectibles, books, and zines – Chocolate Drop is currently in pride of place!

 

Ashleigh Shackelford

I consume everything that Ashleigh Shackelford writes. The co-creator of Black Action Now, she also works as a community organiser and runs training workshops on issues of body politics, #BLM organising, and intersectional feminism. My all-time favourite piece from Ashley was about the erasure of fat women in #Lemonade.

 

Jill Andrew

Over in Canada, Jill Andrew is working to make physical size a protected class is legislation; making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their size (aka, fatness). She’s also a co-founder of Fat in the City, a lifestyle blog for fat women; Fat in the City is the host of the Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCA). The BCCAs are an annual event since 2013, celebrating Canadian individuals fighting for size equality.

 

Jazmine Walker & Amber Phillips

“This is clearly a show by and for petty black fat feminists”

The Black Joy Mixtape Podcast

I will be forever grateful to Sonya Renee Taylor of The Body is Not an Apology for introducing me to this podcast. It’s hosted by Jazmine Walker and Amber Phillips, who identify as “two petty AF Black feminists who are determined to get on WorldStarHipHop one way or the other. Each week they overcome fuckboys, Becky, hoteps, and dry skin to spit hot fire on pop culture, politics and worship anything Black women have going on”. Jazmine and Amber are based in Washington, D. C., and have their fingers on the pulses of politics and pop culture. What I love best about this podcast is that it is a love letter to blackness and black people, especially black women. They talk a lot about bodies, and fat bodies in particular, and there is a lot of laughter along the way.

 

Nomonde Mxhalisa

Nomonde Mxhalisa is a fat, black, queer womanist in South Africa – a lover of life and a crusader of the light. She came to her feminist awakening at her mother’s knee, when the pain and triumphs of the women who raised her illustrated daily the sheer importance of intersectional feminism. I recently interviewed her for my show, and let me tell you, she’s awesome. I’m hoping to have her as a Keynote at FSNZ20. You wanna hear what she has to say. In the meantime, check out her video for Love Intersections (a film project exploring intersectionality through the lens and language of love)!

 

Ijeoma Oluo

Lastly, another favourite writer of mine is Ijeoma Oluo. Ijeoma is the Editor-At-Large at The Establishment (go support them for $5!), and publishes great work there, among other online places (like The Guardian and Medium). If you’re committed to being a white ally and want to do some tough work, check out her piece on anti-racism.  She also gave us the Badass Feminist Coloring Books, which included fat babe Substania Jones of the Adipositivity Project. Her writing explores race, feminism, gender, politics, size, and so much more. Her piece, “You don’t have to love your body” is incredibly powerful. So is her piece about poor people deserving to eat cake too.

 

 

On the year in fat: 2016 January 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 6:54 pm

I’m not sure about you, but I’m not quite ready to face 2017. I’m hoping it will be a better year, for the world, than 2016. For many of us, 2016 was rough – Ali, Brexit, Trump, Ifill, Aleppo, #NoDAPL, the death of trade unionist Helen Kelly, Bowie,neo-Nazis, Prince, Flint, #whitefeminism… (I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of things that belong on this list!)….just, rough. If I allow myself to think back on what was great about 2016 – what was fatlicious – I can remember all the great things that were ushered in, in the year that might forever be known as the Year-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named.

Fat podcasts

thefatlip-logo

One of the new fat podcasts available for your listening pleasure is The Fat Lip. Hosted by Ash, who identifies as “500+ pounds of scepticism and CocaCola”, this is a great show that provides transcriptions of most episodes. Episodes have explored the difference between fat and superfat, and body positivity and fat positivity. Guests have included Shane Brodie and Virgie Tovar. If you haven’t listened yet, all 12 episodes are available on the webpage. You can also subscribe on iTunes.

badfatbroad-logo

The other new fat kid on the block is Bad Fat Broads. This show, hosted by KC and Ariel, presents the bad fat broad’s perspective on all things important. Regular segments include dumpster fires on the Internet and who they no longer know; they brought the show live to the Allied Media Conference, and that was extra fatlicious. I love the work these bad fat broads are doing, and I was super excited to provide some financial support when the show first launched early in 2016.

2016-02-10-12-09-06

My fat positive podcast, Friend of Marilyn, isn’t new – in fact, 2016 was the 5th year of the show. As I was reflecting back on the almost 200 episodes that had aired, I realised that most of my guests on the show were white Western women (just like me!) and I thought, GROSS. After considering how I could do better, I decided to take the show on the road – a global road trip! It started in New Zealand in early 2016, and I fully expected it to be finished by the end of the year. But my mad Googling skills – and the lovely suggestions of guests I did find – led to the year ending with the show in Israel. I’ve already done some interviews across Africa, and that’s where the show will pick up in 2017. Looks like this tour is going to go through at least 2018, if not longer. If you are in Africa, Europe, or the Americas, and want to be on the show (or suggest someone who should be), please let me know!

 

Fat athletes

This was a great year for fat athletes. Looking across the fat athletes that competed in the Rio Olympics reinforced for me, and many across the world, that fat people can engage in fitness, and even be Olympians.

Fat athletes seem to be getting more attention these days, remember these great covers from the EPSN Body Issue of 2014 and 2015?

Unfortunately, this is probably because the idea of a fat athlete fits nicely into respectability politics. Sure, it’s okay to be fat, as long as you are also fit/healthy/physically active/fill in your favourite litmus test here for fat humanity. And of course, of course, fat athletes still have to deal with fat shaming and body shaming, even when they are Olympians.

 

FAC 2016 & FSNZ16

I was thrilled to be invited to speak at the 2016 Fat Activism Conference. I spoke on being fat in the workplace, and was joined by 30 other amazing speakers, including Gloria Lucas, Daniel Goldberg, and Caleb Luna. I love this conference – being online, and available on-demand afterwards, means that I can engage with it as suits me best in the Southern Hemisphere. I love that they have a pay-what-you-can-afford option. I’d like to see more cis and trans men as speakers in future years, and more people from outside of the Western and Northern Hemispheres; you can recommend a speaker here. And I’m really proud that Friend of Marilyn came on board as a sponsor this year; hoping to do this again for 2017 (dates for 2017 FAC have been announced: 6-8 October, 2017).

FSNZ16 Logo 2016

The other big FAT conference this year was Fat Studies New Zealand 2016: Identity, Agency, Embodiment. FNSZ16 provided a space for Fat Studies scholars and fat activists to come together and share pedagogy, scholarship, and activism. Over 100 people registered for the conference, with approx. 30 of those being in attendance in person. We had 22 presentations; 5 of them were done remotely (New Zealand; sick child on the day, Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom). Online attendees were able to live stream the two days, and submit Qs for presenters through Twitter. Live Tweeting of FSNZ16 took place by four individuals in attendance, along with the organiser. I loved that we had two keynotes this time – Substantia Jones and Katie LeBesco; having an academic and an activist as our keynotes allowed us to acknowledge that Fat Studies, as a discipline, is heavily integrated by scholars and activists. I also enjoyed the community events that tied into the conference, including Fat Out Loud (spoken word event at the Library) and the Adipositivity Project exhibit at Te Manawa. I’m very aware that hosting the conference in NZ means that many who would like to attend cannot, but I hope that the online options did allow for meangingful engagement. I’m already planning for FSNZ20 (2020), so let me know if you have any ideas!

Fat Colouring Books

Colouring books continued to be all the rage in 2106. We’ve had some great fat positive colouring books in the past, like Fat Ladies in Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace and the FATSPO Colouring book on Tumblr; and there are other non-fat specific, but still awesome, feminist colouring books, like The Badass Feminist Colouring Book (V1 and V2). In 2016, we had several new fat positive colouring books hit the shelves and I couldn’t be more giddy about this! I don’t remember spending a lot of time colouring when I was a child, but I love what these represent, and I love that fat kids now have opportunities to see themselves, and colour themselves in, in books (although not all of these are child friendly!)

fat-activism-colouring-book

Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book by Allison Tunis

bigfatlittlecolouringzine

The Big Fat Little Colouring Zine by Natalie Perkins (this is available as a printed zine or a PDF)

superfat-crop-top-girl-gang-colouring-zine

Superfat Crop Top Girl Gang Colouring Book Zine by Rachele Cateyes (get all four!)

 

On Fatlicious Holiday Gift Giving 2016 December 4, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 3:57 pm

‘Tis the season to spoil those you love, and yourself, with some fatlicious gifts. Here is my guide to fatlicious shopping for the 2016 holiday season. Treat yourself and those you love, and support fat people!

 

 

For the fatshionista

fat-necklace

Fat necklace from Fancy Lady Industries

 

copper-union-jumper

Alexa Jumper from Copper Union

 

choker

Queen Cartwheels Choker from Chubby Cartwheels

 

 

 

For the person on the go

murderofgoths-bag

Plus size bloggers tote bag from Murder of Goths

 

ipad-case

Naked fat ladies iPad case from Rachele Cateyes

 

 

For the seducer

strapless-bustier

Strapless Floral Bustier from the Intimates II Collection Chubby Cartwheels

 

curvy-as-hell-briefs

Curvy as Hell briefs from Nicky Rockets

 

 

For the collector

power-badge

Fat the Power badge from I Heart Gallery

 

faith

Faith from Valiant Comics

 

fat-mermaids

Fat Mermaids: A collaborative charity zine by Paige Hall (not available at the moment – but hopefully will be again because this is a MUST for any fat art collector!)

 

 

For the weekend

fat-artists-tshirtdecolonise-tshirt

Fat Artists Rule T-shirt and Decolonise Body Love T-shirt from Nalgona Positive Pride

 

teamstillfat-t

#TeamStillFat from #FreeFigureRevolution

 

fat-and-thriving

Fat & Thriving from Ready to Stare

 

 

For the scholar

Fat Activism

Fat activism: A radical social movement by Charlotte Cooper

 

pedagogy-reader

The fat pedagogy reader: Challenging weight-based oppression through critical education edited by Erin Cameron & Constance Russell

 

 

For the home

swirls

Candy Bodies art print postcards by Elsa Underwood Art

 

Calendar 2017.jpg

Adipositivity Project calendar 2017 from Substania Jones

 

fatasfuck

Fat as Fuck embroidery from HerMadeCo

 

 

For the kid in all of us

bigfatlittlecolouringzine

The Big Fat Little Colouring Zine by Natalie Perkins (this is available as a printed zine or a PDF)

 

fat-activism-colouring-book

Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book by Allison Tunis

 

superfat-crop-top-girl-gang-colouring-zine

Superfat Crop Top Girl Gang Colouring Book Zine by Rachele Cateyes (get all four!)

 

 

For the lotto winner

ditto-dress

Beth Ditto Double Bubble Dress

 

 

 

Previous fatlicious gift giving guides

Fatlicious Guide 2015

Fatlicious Guide 2014

Fatlicious Guide 2013

Fatlicious Guide 2012

Fatlicious Guide 2011

 

 

 

 

On fatness, news, and fear mongering November 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 6:01 pm

There has been a lot of talk lately about fake news, or has some people refer to it, about propaganda. While concerns around fake news are valid and should definitely be of concern in the post-truth culture, I have similar concerns about the failures of mainstream media (real news), to report information in accurate and useful way for the public. We’ve seen MSM in the United States struggle with this with PEOTUS, who is unwilling to distinguish between a truth and a lie.

2016-08-13-18-55-13

And it isn’t only the MSM in the United States that engage in irresponsible reporting. Here in New Zealand, the media has once again failed in their reporting around issues of fatness, and failed to present useful information for the New Zealand public. In a story entitled, “Claims of a NZ obesity epidemic are ‘fearmongering’, says academic”, it is reported that a “dramatic jump in the number of children considered overweight or obese is expected to hit New Zealand within the next nine years. By 2025, it is expected about 32 per cent of children will be considered overweight or obese….By 2025, more than one in four Australian children will be considered overweight or obese.”

The article concludes by listing the obesity rates for adults and children in communities around the country. The article is framed around the narrative that the sky is falling, and I am Chicken Fat, running around disputing the claim.

 

Let’s set the scene, shall we? I’m sitting in the lounge at the airport, waiting to fly up to Auckland. My phone rings, and caller ID tells me that it is the local paper. I answer and speak with a reporter who is keen to get my thoughts on a press release from the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. He wants my thoughts, and of course needs them ASAP, so I suggest he email me the media release and I will read it and get back to him.

 

Here is what he sent me,

 

ROYAL AUSTRALASIAN COLLEGE OF SURGEONS

MEDIA RELEASE

Obesity Epidemic Already Upon Us Say Medical Professionals

Thursday 27 October, 2017

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has issued a dire warning to Australians and New Zealanders about their countries’ weight problem, as alarming statistics highlight the prevalence of the problem in young people.

This warning comes as the Obesity Surgery Society of Australia and New Zealand (OSSANZ) holds its Annual Conference in Sydney starting today to discuss some of the more difficult areas of Bariatric Surgery and as the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) prepares to convene a National Health Summit on Obesity in Melbourne on 9 November to discuss ways in which obesity can be reduced.

According to projections, by 2025, more than one in four Australian children aged between five and seventeen will be considered overweight or obese. This is up from one in five at the turn of the century, with a clear trajectory towards a one in three figure.

The numbers are even worse in New Zealand, where the one in three figure will almost be reached by 2025, when it is expected approximately 32 per cent of children will be considered overweight or obese.

RACS Fellow and President of OSSANZ, Mr George Hopkins, said that the increase in Australia and New Zealand had reached crisis point.

“We often refer to the obesity epidemic as a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, but the reality is it already has. You don’t have to spend long in any public shopping centre to work out how widespread it has become,” Mr Hopkins said.

“This is having flow on effects for the rest of the health system. There are strong links between obesity and a myriad of other health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers.”

“Furthermore, obese people have a 50 -100 per cent increased risk of dying prematurely compared to people of normal weight.”

Mr Hopkins works as a gastrointestinal surgeon in Brisbane, where he has performed weight loss surgery on thousands of patients. He says there had been a noticeable increase in the number of obese patients requiring surgery, but most startling has been the rise in the number of children.

“When I am required to operate on younger people it is usually after every other weight loss strategy has failed. Compared to when I first started working as a surgeon it is alarming how common it has become for people to require this sort of intervention at such a young age.”

“With so many people now overweight this is not just placing an enormous strain on individuals, but it is also creating an untenable situation for our health system. There is only so much pressure it can take before it collapses.”

“Childhood obesity is preventable, but something needs to change urgently. Weight loss surgery has proven to be an effective measure, but it should not be viewed as a silver bullet or a cure.”

“We need to look right across the spectrum for how we are going to tackle this crisis, from education, to nutrition, to promoting more active lifestyles. Those figures are damning, clearly what we are doing at the moment isn’t working.”

 

So I read the release, and Google to learn more about the Obesity Surgery Society of Australia and New Zealand (OSSANZ). Because this press release has been released on the first day of the OSSANZ’s annual conference in Sydney, and understanding the Obesity Surgery Society is central to understanding the press release. Unsurprisingly, I learn that the OSSANZ is an organisation that is comprised of obesity surgeons and works, among other things, “to form a closer association of the obesity surgeons of Australia & New Zealand for the advancement of the obesity surgery & management”; it is also part of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, which itself is a “federation composed of national associations of bariatric surgeons”, because these national associations, like the OSSANZ, are everywhere.

 

My main reaction to the press release was that it made a lot of claims about rising rates of obesity in New Zealand and Australia, but did not direct the reader as to where one could go to find the evidence to support the claims made. So, this was my response:

Hi Nick,

As they haven’t referenced/cited where they are getting their evidence/statements, I can only really speak to the tone of the piece. Which is fear mongering; it feeds into the existing moral panic we are having about obesity.

And it’s especially dangerous when targeted at children. We are already seeing the effects of the war on obesity in kids – the hostility & bullying of fat kids (by both peers & adults) is increasing, as are the numbers of eating disorders being diagnosed in youth. Further efforts to fight obesity will only increase stigmatisation of children’s bodies. Fat kids are living in hell, and non-fat kids are engaging in undesirable behaviours to avoid becoming the fat kids.

What we need are approaches to health that are independent of weight. And we can do this. We can teach kids about health seeking behaviours, without it being attached to fear or shame about weight. We can assess and measure the health of a population in many meaningful ways without using BMI.

What we do, though, is use weight as a proxy for health. And that isn’t helpful for anyone, except those who make their living performing weight loss surgeries.

Cat

 

I specifically mention that I can’t comment on their claims about the numbers in New Zealand in 2025, because the press release itself doesn’t provide evidence or any citations for how those projections are made. I specifically mention that all I can speak to is the tone.

And yet.

And yet.

The piece itself – presents the claims of the press release without question, and presents me as Chicken Fat. Read the first two sentences from the piece:

 “A Manawatu academic has slammed a warning about a projected spike in child obesity as “fearmongering”. A dramatic jump in the number of children considered overweight or obese is expected to hit New Zealand within the next nine years.”

A bit later in the piece, we get this: “However, that projection has been criticised by Massey University human development senior lecturer Cat Pause, who says such messages are dangerous when aimed at children.”

I didn’t provide a criticism to the projection; I noted that it wasn’t supported by evidence. The only feedback I provided was to the tone of the release. And yes, it was fear mongering. Specific examples of the fear mongering in the release include (emphasis mine),

  • alarming statistics highlight the prevalence of the problem in young people”
  • “the increase in Australia and New Zealand had reached crisis point
  • “We often refer to the obesity epidemic as a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, but the reality is it already has”
  • “it is alarming how common it has become for people to require this sort of intervention at such a young age”
  • “There is only so much pressure it can take before it collapses

While I am annoyed by how I was misrepresented in the story (a common experience for Fat Studies scholars and fat activists – see this and this on suggestions for how to not get stitched up by the media), it is not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is how the information itself – the facts – was misrepresented. The reporter simply repeated the projections from the press release, without providing links to further evidence – or noting that the press release itself didn’t provide evidence or citations. Or even repeating the projections as claims made by this particular group (with a particular dog in the fight). It could easily read, “The OSSANZ claims that by 2025, 32 per cent of children will be…” And while the word projection is used once in the article, the presentation of the projections read like established facts,

  •  “By 2025, it is expected about 32 per cent of children will be considered overweight or obese, according to Australian and New Zealand obesity surgeons.”
  •  “By 2025, more than one in four Australian children will be considered overweight or obese.”

Most people reading the article will come away believing that these are realistic projections supported by scientific evidence. But are they? Without any reference to the evidence, we can’t know. There is no doubt, however, that these projections are great for the OSSANZ. Who benefits from obesity fear mongering? Obesity surgeons – bariatric surgeons – the professionals who can present themselves as the only ones with the answer to the problem (as Mr George Hopkins in the press release notes), benefit greatly from these projections. But where is the evidence? I’m not willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the OSSANZ, or even the larger Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. We have too long a history of being taken in by projections – of judgments – from obesity science; these past proclamations have done a great deal of violence to the fat community.

 

For example, in 1999, David Allison and colleagues published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association that asserted that obesity caused 300,000 deaths a year in the United States (while noting several times that this was probably a low estimate). It’s since been cited by over 2,000 other papers and that number (300k) spread everywhere. Picked up by policy makers, healthcare providers, and NGOs alike, it is still often used in documents. Allison and colleagues received a great deal of criticism for the methodology they used to determine this number, however. In the paper itself, they note “…our calculations assume that all (controlling for age, sex, and smoking) excess mortality in obese people is due to obesity”. This means that they concluded that all the fat people who had died had died of their fatness.

Another popular assertion is, “Because of obesity, this is the first generation of children that will not outlive their parents” – ever heard anything like that? In 2002, the Houston Chronicle ran a story that included the dire warning of Dr. William Klish of Texas Children’s Hospital, “‘If we don’t get this epidemic [of childhood obesity] in check, for the first time in a century children will be looking forward to a shorter life expectancy than their parents.'” When pushed for evidence to support his statement, Klish acknowledged that he didn’t have any, but that it is based in his own intuition.

Similarly (albeit in a scholar journal, rather than the MSM), Jay Olshansky, David B. Allison, and colleagues published a piece in a 2005 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine that made a similar claim to Klish, “youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents”. Towards the end of the paper, Olshansky and his co-authors acknowledge that their dire prediction relied on their “collective judgment” rather than empirical, scientific evidence. “It is important to emphasize that our conclusions about the future are based on our collective judgment”. When pressed for further explanation by a reporter for Scientific American, Allison responded, “These are just back-of-the-envelope, plausible scenarios…We never meant for them to be portrayed as precise.” (If you want to read the entire story in Scientific American, entitled, Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic? you can find it here and here).

 

Both of those talking points – obesity kills 300k people a year, and children will have shorter life expectancy that their parents – are still kicking around the Internet, government policy documents, and the scientific literature. MSM still repeats them when useful – and rarely does the use of either talking point include an acknowledgement that there is NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT EITHER. That these shouldn’t be taken as fact. As truth.

And there is also NO consideration given to the violence that is done by statements like these. Whether through government policy, structural discrimination, workplace programmes, or bullying/harassment enacted by family, friends, and strangers, make no mistake that those talking points bolster (and in many cases justify) the oppression of fat people.

In a democracy, a free press has the responsibility to provide the readers with factual information to inform their lives and decision-making. This requires not simply parroting back information found in press releases, especially where a conflict of interest may be apparent (like, obesity surgeons making predictions about how many obese patients there may be one day needing their surgeries, without evidence to support it). So for the Manawatu Standard to repeat those predictions, without providing any context to the reader, is incredibly irresponsible and gross.