Half in the Data Dark, We’ve More Work to Do!

Today, I read a horrifying statistic about the state of statistics.  A group called All Trials has flatly stated that of all the clinical trials, encompassing hundreds of thousands of patients, 50% have never reported the results.  They state this, and offer this research to back it up.

One can speculate many reasons why various research results have not been reported.  But I keep coming back to one, solitary reason, which I suspect is the main reason, why results weren’t reported.  They probably weren’t reported because the results were either contrary to previous results in a way that was uncomfortable or the results were likely to be unpopular with whoever asked for the study, financed the study or might be interested in reporting on the study.

If, to take a fictitious example, the green been growers association finances a study on the health effects of green beans, and the study fails to show any positive effect, it is  unlikely that those results will ever see the light of day.

One wonders what effect this data dumping has on the massive amounts of research funded by or managed by either organizations pledged to fight obesity or companies that offer products and services to “cure” obesity or both.  I, for one, would love to know what’s in that data dump.

If you are also interested in getting those results and fighting for greater transparency in clinical research, you can engage in a little very easy activism by going to the AllTrials website and clicking to join the petition.

And if you’re interested in doing even more to help fight bad research, stigmatizing policies and outright abuse of people of size, I am so very excited to announce our 2nd Annual Fat Activism Conference!  We have such an amazing roster of speakers lined up.  Once again, we have 2.5 days of online speeches and panels with loads of opportunities for you to ask questions, share your thoughts and get involved!  And this year we will also be offering access to our brand new Fat Activism E-Book!

And in the name of full transparency, I want to let you know that everybody who is involved in putting on the conference will share in the profits.  The conference organizers (me and Ragen Chastain), the organizing committee, all the speakers and all the sales affiliates will share in the profits of the conference.  So not only will you be learning from and reading about some amazing fat activists, you will be helping to support those who do this important work.  The conference runs October 9-11 and we are looking forward to seeing you there!  Click here to get your tickets at the super early bird price!

I can’t wait to see you there!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

5-year-olds on a Diet

Sometimes people ask me why I do this.  I work in Hollywood.  Writing a blog doesn’t really pay all that well.  And it can be a solitary process at times without a lot of feedback.

But sometimes I come across something that reminds me why.  Like this study which talks about “dietary restraint” (the cognitive restriction of food intake for the purpose of controlling weight) among 5-year-old girls. Five. Years. Old.

At five kids should be coloring and tormenting their older siblings and screaming and playing and dressing up.  They should not be worrying about the size of their thighs.  They should not be counting carbs.  They should not be worrying about fitting into their skinny jeans.

But according to the study, nearly 35 percent of the 5-yr-old girls were displaying “dietary restraint”.  The study points out not only is dieting at age 5 distressing, it is also an important precursor or marker for eating disorders in the future.  And that future might not be very far away for a number of these girls.  The study states:

Despite eating disorders typically emerging during adolescence, cases have been reported in early elementary school children.

The study reviewed the influences that caused these girls to restrict their food intake.  While most of the girls were pretty happy with their body at the moment, over 50 percent showed some evidence that they had taken the “thin ideal” to heart.  And the girls who had clearly taken the thin ideal to heart, that had experienced more media that represented the thin ideal and had more discussions about appearance with their peers, were the girls more likely to be restricting their food intake.

Which leads me to ask some questions.  If we know that BMI report cards are ineffective, and we know that kids are learning behaviors that lead to eating disorders as early as age 5, why don’t we work harder to include body image education into the curriculum–the earlier the better?  Anorexia is deadly and notoriously difficult to treat.  Why don’t we put some real, sensible, research-based curriculum in place at the earliest possible age to help these kids not develop this problem?  And since adults who hate their bodies are fairly likely to project these feelings onto impressionable children, why don’t we require training for teachers and strongly encourage training for all adults who deal with kids?

We have an opportunity to make a world where girls don’t grow up hating their bodies and hating themselves.  That’s why I write this blog.  That’s what I do what I do.  I add my tiny voice to the growing chorus singing the song stating that we are beautiful, we are worthy of love, we are okay just the way we are.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me talk about body positive at your school?  Click HERE.

Apparently Body Positivity Goes to Size Large (or maybe XL)

Victoria’s Secret is that every body is perfect as long as they look exactly like this…

I recently came across a link for a “Body Positive” fitness company (not gonna name it or give it linky power) that had the word “Thick” in their company name and states as their goal:

…body positive movement that encourages women to accept and become the best version of themselves through health and fitness.

Sounded pretty good.  So I decided to take a look around.  I saw a conventionally super thin fitness model type.  And then I saw lots more pictures of her.  Then I realized that the whole thing was created by a model.

I rooted around on the site to see if I could spot any body diversity.  On the front there was a picture of a bunch of women of slightly differing body types.  We were looking at a size range from maybe 00 to maybe a size 8?  Okay.  I kept looking.  I finally found a picture of a body over size 10 on a candid shot from one of their “tours”.  One body that they didn’t manage to crop out.

I then went to their retail section.  I clicked on a cute crop-top emblazoned with the words “Because Goals”.  All the clothing was displayed on the same model who created the site.  I clicked on the sizes.  Wow!  The crop top came in TWO sizes, XS/S and M/L.  I found I could also find “Guilt Free” powdered peanut butter, and I got a coupon for a meal delivery service offering paleo and weight loss and “contest prep” meals.  Oh, I could also buy this mug:

Cup2

At this point I was getting more than a little annoyed.  In the schedule a class section I found this:

…a program that caters to the female who wants to burn total body fat while also building muscle in the lower body.

The blog section shared with me some information about how to cut calories, how to lose body fat, how to stay in the fat burning zone and blah, blah, blah.  And all of this was under the heading of “body positive”.

wordmontoya

It really pisses me off.  We have girls at age 5 worrying about the size of their thighs.  We have eating disorders among very young women increasing at dramatic levels.  And then we have sites promising a “body positive” space that are covered with pictures of super-models and t-shirts that go to a size L.  We have companies using “body positivity” to sell weight loss, compulsive exercise, diet potions and pills, meal replacements and disordered eating in a box.  And before you suggest that this trend only refers to this company, let me assure you that it is everywhere.

Body positive is for EVERY BODY or it’s for nobody.  Suggesting that you are body positive and then only showing bodies ranging in size from 00 to 04 is worse than not using the word body positive at all.  When you call something a “body positive” environment and then create an environment where a woman (or girl) at size 12 or 22 or 32 is shamed you are doing way more harm than good.  Because you’re giving that girl or that woman the message that body positive is only for people who fall within an extremely narrow range.  When you have apparently flawless people talking about accepting their flaws it gives the message that certain kinds of nearly invisible flaws are okay, but your flaws clearly make you a monster.  It’s false advertising.  It’s deceitful.  It’s harmful.  And its very, very wrong.

I think we need to start fighting back against companies that use body positive language to sell us stuff that isn’t body positive at all.  I think we need to be a little bit careful when companies use body positive language to sell us anything at all.  I think we need to be very clear that when body positive doesn’t include EVERY BODY, it’s not very positive at all.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come talk to your school or company or organization about what body positive really means?  You can click here to learn more, or just email me at jeanette at thefatchick dot com.

P.S.S. Want to go to a body positive space that features really a lot of different sizes?  Check out our forum at Fit Fatties.

Are the three white powders ruining our civilization? Or is the screaming a bit overblown?

Nope, I’m not talking about heroin or cocaine or meth.  I’m talking about flour (gluten) salt and sugar.  And it seems like you can’t open a magazine or newspaper or newsfeed without another article warning us of the dangers of these killer substances and reminding us that they are “almost as bad as smoking” or “as bad as smoking” (which is the current gold standard for health-based fear mongering).

Sugar in particular has come under a lot of fire.  In case you missed any of the hysteria, just google “sugar is evil” and see what you get.  You’ll undoubtedly see a link to the film “Fed Up” Produced by David Laurie (who also produced “An Inconvenient Truth”) and hosted by Katie Couric.  Which claims that the processed food industries are to blame for getting us to love sugar and that we have literally no control over ourselves when it comes to the substance.  And you might see a link to “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”–a 90 minute video by pediatric hormone and childhood obesity expert Robert Lustig.

That’s why I was so pleased and relieved to come across a blog post by my friend and colleague Dr. Jon Robison which helps us all calm down a little when it comes to sugar.  He quickly cuts through a lot of the hype and helps us find our way.

I’m not going to summarize the whole article, because I think it would be better if you just read it for yourself.  It’s not especially long and it’s quite entertaining.  But I would love to highlight a few things to pique your interest.

One topic area that Jon covers is the notion that sugar is an empty calorie.  Folks there are all different kinds of sugar out there.  And while Jon doesn’t specifically cover this in his post, I can tell you that breast milk contains a fair amount of sugar (it’s sweeter than cow’s milk) and nearly all docs on the planet believe that breast milk is one of the best substances on earth for getting kids started in the world.  There are no empty calories.  All calories have nutritional value of some sort or another.  Some may help the body in ways that others do not.  But all calories are fuel and can keep the body from starvation.

Another idea Jon discusses is that sugar is an addiction.  Jon does a terrific job of blowing this idea away.  A lot of the rhetoric around sugar as an addiction centers around the notion that the sugar stimulates some of the same sections of the brain that are stimulated by another white powder (cocaine).  On the surface this sounds damning and dramatic (and makes great internet clickbait).  But as Robison points out, there are lots of other things that light up those same pleasure centers in the brain like music, a mother recognizing the face of her child, and falling in love.

Well you might as well face it…

Finally, Robison concludes the post in talking about sugar addiction and binge eating disorder.  Many people have pointed to binge eating disorder as proof that food is addictive:

Binge Eating Disorder (BED). BED is the most common of all eating disorders, affecting some 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men in the United States. It is defined this way by the Binge Eating Disorder Association:

“Also called compulsive eating, emotional eating or overeating, binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating, feeling out of control while bingeing, and feeling guilt and shame afterward.’

But the problem of using the addiction model for binge eating disorder comes largely from the “cure” which in many cases can make the problem even worse.  Typically in addiction models, we seek to eliminate that to which we are addicted (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes).  Although there are some models that use medications to block the euphoria response from certain substances, the vast majority of treatments advocate abstinence.

However, we cannot abstain from food.  And despite the efforts made by programs like “Sugar Busters” and “Overeaters Anonymous” the research shows that abstaining from certain foods (processed sugar) simply makes binge eating disorder worse.

I think if we are addicted to anything in this country, it’s overwrought, hand wringing panic about any new health scare.  I’m glad, people like Jon help us to overcome this particular addiction with sane writing and thinking.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to talk about overblown health scares at your school, organization or club? Go here for more info on booking me!

Extrapolating

Extrapolating to Absurdity–Reporting on New Study Takes Things FAR OUT.

Extrapolating

I was driving around in my car yesterday, minding my own business, when a story came onto my local NPR station that caught my attention.  Kevin Hall PhD was on the air talking about his new study comparing how the body responds to low fat vs. low carb diets.  He was careful to state that the study compared people in carefully controlled environments as opposed to relying on food journals for information on food journals (because you KNOW us fat folks can’t be counted on to be honest about those things).  He said that the study participants were brought in for two, two-week inpatient hospital stays where every morsel of food was accounted for.  In fact, every person was fed the exact same breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for two weeks, were expected to eat all of it and were not allowed to have anything different.  (I think the study creators took their lives into their hands with this one, because if you fed me the exact same, low-calorie, diet crud for two weeks running, I’m quite sure I’d become pretty stabby.  And I don’t know what could possibly compel me to return for the second phase of that torturous crud.  But I digress.)

Kevin said all of the subjects “had obesity” which is a funny, disease-language sort of way to say they were fat.  But none of them had diabetes.  And according to Kevin, the study indicated that at a metabolic level there was very little difference in weight loss results from the low fat vs. the low carb diets.  Although, the low carb diet had a greater impact on blood glucose levels than the low fat diet.  And the low fat diet apparently led to slightly greater fat loss within the two week period than the low carb diet.  Okay.  Got it.

But then the report started to go off the rails for me.  Kevin suggested that based on this study we could extrapolate that the low-fat diet would lead to greater weight loss over the long term than the low-carb diet.  And that’s when I had to pull the car over because I was shouting at the radio.

“How can you extrapolate anything over the long term other than the notion that most of these people won’t keep the weight off or will even gain weight after this experiment,” I said.  “This study has a lot to do with metabolism but you can’t really expect to transfer the results of this study to real life!”  I tried to call in to express my opinion, but by time I got through the story was over.  So I resolved to hit the radio station website, find the study and take a look for myself.

I did just that.  And the data extrapolation situation was so much worse than I thought.  The study contained a grand total of 19 subjects.  During the first two-week stay, the subjects ate a eucaloric baseline diet for 5 days, followed by 6 days on either a reduced fat diet or a reduced carbohydrate diet.  Then there was a 2-4 week “washout period” when they went home.  After that, they returned and ate the eucaloric baseline diet for 5 days followed by a reduced fat or reduced carbohydrate diet.  Each subject switched diets for the second two week stretch. So if they did the low fat diet in the first stretch, they did the low carb diet in the second stretch and vice versa.

Okay.  So there’s some good stuff here.  The study carefully tries to control for various factors.  The food is the same each day, so there won’t be wild fluctuations there.  All subjects are, um, subjected to both diets so that helps eliminate some of the variables.  And everybody eats exactly the same thing.  Subjects spent a significant amount of time in a metabolic chamber to very carefully measure the way the calories were metabolized.  I see the point of needing this level of precision to control the variables of the experiment.

But my big, BIG problem came during the radio interview when Kevin started talking about how this could apply to real world fatties and what it would mean for them.  He suggested that over the long term (so far the study doesn’t even have 6 months worth of follow up data) the minute differences in weight loss from the two diets would accumulate and you would see significantly greater weight loss from the low-fat diet vs. the low carb diet.  This despite the overwhelming evidence outside of this study that indicates that over the true long term (2-5 years) the most likely outcome for the vast majority of the subjects is either insignificant weight loss or even weight gain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when science people are science-ing.  But when you extrapolate from 19 subjects over 22 days in an extremely controlled environment that is virtually impossible to replicate in the real world to what effect these diets will have over the long term in the real world, I’ve got a serious problem with that.  I have talked about it before, and I will talk about it again.  If you want to understand science, possibly the last thing on earth you should do is listen to science reporting in the mainstream media.

And I have to wonder about the millions of people who are going to hear this report and hop on the diet/shame/regain cycle all over again because science people say they should.  Because when you take science and simplify and stretch it beyond all limits in order to get a popular news story to help bump up your funding, you are behaving irresponsibly and people, especially fat people will wind up getting hurt.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come and sort out some science reporting for your group?  Click here to learn more about hiring me as a speaker!

PADS Saturday–Grandpa Pushes It Good!

As the nearby “Cabin Fire” has us coughing and staying inside, I thought I’d cheer myself (and you) up with a PADS Saturday.  What is a PADS Saturday you ask?  PADS Saturday is a semi regular Saturday-only blog feature which includes

Public

Acts of

Dancing

Spontaneously

I ran across this video and frankly love everything about it (except the comments of course).  This guy has got it going ON!  There is no questioning his commitment.  And this guy has got some incredibly strong hamstrings, quads and glutes.  Check it out when he goes down low.  And slides to the floor.  And, and, and!  His dancing partner has some great moves too.  But I have to say for inventiveness, for committing fully to getting his groove on and to rocking it out while not dropping his cell phone (note the clip) this guy wins the Internetz for today!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t invite you to collect just a little sumthin, sumthin from this guy’s mojo.  Where are you holding back?  Where are you making yourself smaller or less than?  And how can you get out there and PUSH IT–PUSH IT REAL GOOD?

Love,

Jeanette DePatie  (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Today is the LAST DAY to submit to the fat fitness anthology.  Let us hear from YOU.

Recent Tests Show Sending “Fat Letters” Home from School Earns a Failing Grade

Forgive me for once again pointing out the blazingly obvious, but recent studies have not been able to find any actual benefits from sending “fat letters” home from school.  What is a “fat letter” you ask?  Many schools are now doing BMI testing on the entire student body.  When a student’s BMI is considered to be too high (using some relatively arbitrary measure) a letter is sent home from school to the student’s parent that goes something like this:

Hi.

Your kid is fat.  WE obviously don’t trust you to know your own kid is fat, because if you knew, you’d obviously have fixed it by now.  We also believe that you don’t know how to keep your kid healthy (because FAT) so here’s some arbitrary weight loss advice that hasn’t been shown to work long-term on anybody, but we’re sending it anyways (because FAT).  And obviously we know that you need help because your kid must be eating a whole cake and 4 liters of sugary soda every day and must need your assistance to run the remote as they watch TV because that is HOW kids get fat.

Also, clearly you aren’t showing the appropriate level of panic about this situation (because OMG Deathfat!) so here are some alarmist health statistics and nonsensical vague future health threats that indicate your kid won’t live as long as you (even though the statistics don’t bear this out because even though we’re in education EEK!  MATH!).  We don’t plan on doing anything to protect your kid from stigma because clearly if you were doing your job right there would be no stigma to protect against (and we don’t like the way your kid looks because OMG jiggly FAT!)

You’re welcome,

Signed Your Kid’s School

Wait, what?  You mean parents don’t love these letters?  You mean despite the fact there is nothing in medical science that indicates that there is a formula for long term weight loss, these kids don’t magically slim down like gazelles and become the most popular kids in the class after their parents receive the letter? Really?

Nope.  In THIS very recent study and this earlier study, no link was found between sending home fat letters and BMI, weight, health behaviors or health outcomes.  This doesn’t meant that the letters have no effect (for example we don’t know if it has an effect on self esteem or the price of broccoli in Boise.)  It simply means that after all the hoopla and distractions from study and public money spent, there is no discernable benefit.

Let me say this again.  State money is being spent on an educational program with no definable benefit.  Which begs the question, do fat people cost our country money or does the knee jerk requirement to “do something about the fatties” whether it does any good or not cost our country money.  Are we paying a premium to create a state-sanctioned forum for people to yell at parents of fat kids because we don’t like the way they look?  (We could create a thread on Reddit.com for a whole lot less money.  Look how much money I saved us!)

And let’s be clear.  This is not just a few dollars at a few schools.  According to the New York Times, nine states require that “fat letters” be sent home to parents.  And today, 25 states weigh public school students to monitor population data on obesity rates.

Yet the results section of Gee’s study states:

BMI screening and parental notification during late adolescence, given prior screening and notification in early adolescence, was not significantly related to BMI-for-age z-scores, the probability of being in a lower weight classification or exercise and dietary intake behaviors.

So what “grade” do you give this exercise?  After careful consideration, I’d have to give this project an “F”.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come speak at your school?  Check out my info here!