Tag Archives: obesity

More Evidence that Fat Stigma is Killing Us

Today, I got an email pointing me towards some new research on fat stigma.  There has been an ever increasing pile of evidence indicating that weight stigma is making us miserable and sick.  We know that weight stigma makes us fatter,  increases inflammation, increases disease burden and decreases quality of life, increases the chances that we will engage in risky behaviors and may contribute significantly to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. We know that weight-based discrimination increases blood pressure and reduces our ability to think clearly. Now we have further proof that weight stigma is shortening our lives.

It has always been supremely frustrating to me that concern trolls are so ready to tell us that they beat us up about our weight because they are concerned for our health.  But as a person who has been on the end of concern trolling, I can tell  you that it doesn’t feel anything at all like genuine concern.  It feels like people relishing the fact they have an excuse to be a bully.  It feels like having a license that allows some people to spew hate under the micron-thick veneer of caring.  It feels like complete B.S.

And this new study indicates that the results of this hate can be profound and life-threatening.  The study states:

The ultimate cumulative effect of these hostile social interactions may be lower life expectancy. The present research examined whether the harmful effect of weight discrimination reached beyond morbidity to mortality and whether common comorbidities and health-risk behaviors accounted for this association. We also compared weight discrimination with other forms of discrimination (e.g., age, race, sex) to examine whether they share weight discrimination’s association with mortality risk. Finally, we examined whether the association between discrimination and mortality varied by sex, ethnicity, age, or body mass index (BMI). We tested these associations using data from two large longitudinal studies, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS).

After reviewing the data from both the HRS and the MIDUS, the study group came to some rather startling conclusions.  It appears that weight stigma can increase risk of mortality by a significant amount:

Weight discrimination was associated with an increase in mortality risk of nearly 60% in both HRS participants (hazard ratio = 1.57, 95% confidence interval = [1.34, 1.84]) and MIDUS participants (hazard ratio = 1.59, 95% confidence interval = [1.09, 2.31]). This increased risk was not accounted for by common physical and psychological risk factors. The association between mortality and weight discrimination was generally stronger than that between mortality and other attributions for discrimination. In addition to its association with poor health outcomes, weight discrimination may shorten life expectancy.

If people are truly worried about the health of fat people, they are going to have to give up on concern trolling.  Outside of the fact that you can’t hate someone for their own good (thank you Marilyn Wann), there is hard statistical evidence that it just may be your hate that is making fat people sick and giving them a shorter life.  Not to mention the horrible effect you have on their quality of life.  The study goes so far as to suggest that the harm of weight discrimination may be more harmful than any other effects of being overweight:

The present findings indicate that the harmful effect of unfair treatment that is attributable to body weight is not limited to psychological distress and morbidity: It also extends to risk of mortality. This association was apparent in two independent samples that covered different periods of the life span, and the association persisted after we accounted for behavioral and clinical risk factors. The effect of weight discrimination on mortality was generally stronger than that of other forms of discrimination but was comparable with that of other established risk factors, such as smoking history and disease burden. Moreover, the association between weight discrimination and mortality risk was in sharp contrast to the protective relation between some of the BMI categories and mortality risk. These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight.

This type of research can have a profound effect on the lives of fat people around the world.  But just because it can doesn’t mean in necessarily will.  The media doesn’t jump to report these stories.  For many reasons, these articles aren’t popular with media outlets and are especially unpopular with advertisers.  If we want these studies to have an impact, we have to make sure that people in the world at large know about them.  We need activists.

That’s why I’m so excited that the Fat Activism Conference is starting tomorrow.  It’s not too late to get your tickets.  We have dozens of amazing speakers lined up ready to share ways that you can be an activist and an advocate for people of all sizes.  We’ve got speakers talking about activism and medicine and activism and art and activism and sex and many other topics.  I hope you’ll consider joining us for the conference.  This study indicates that activism against weight stigma may do more than just make us feel better and feel better about ourselves.  It just might help to save our lives.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Advertisements

Bullying is Ugly, But we Need to Look at it with “A Brave Heart”

schoolHallwayThis ugly, UGLY picture was taken today of a poster that was taped to a wall at Northern High School in Calvert County, MD.  There’s a lot of argument about the poster–which we will get to in a minute.  But in the meantime, let me tell you just what interesting timing this poster has for me personally.

As I sat in the audience last night at a Producers Guild Pre-release screening of “A Brave Heart–The Lizzie Velasquez story” I heard the people around me gasp.  We had reached the part of Lizzie’s story where she recalled at age 17 finding an unauthorized video of herself posted on YouTube.  The video was captioned “The Ugliest Woman in the World” and had been seen over  4 million times.  And the comments–oh the comments.  People said things like , “Why didn’t her parents abort her?” and “Kill it with fire!!!” I heard people whisper things like, “oh my God!” and “I can’t believe it.”

I could believe it.  I haven’t lived Lizzie’s Velasquez’ story.  Nobody but Lizzie has lived that amazing life.  But I’ve lived with the hate.  I’ve read comments like that on my own blog and twitter feed and especially my YouTube account.  I’ve swapped stories with other fat activists about the death threats and the rape threats and the doxxing and all other forms of online harassment that so many of us experience on a daily basis.  And I thought how privileged some of the people in that audience were–that they didn’t really know that sort of online hate existed.  That they found it difficult to believe.

I was so proud of my husband, who stood up during the Q&A to relate that he had been completely ignorant of how bad the online climate was, of how unbelievably ugly it could be, until he started reading some of the comments that people have directed at his own wife.  He reiterated how important this movie was–how relevant it was–because adults need to understand just how bad it is out there.

The movie, directed by Sara Bordo also talked about how dire the consequences of bullying can be.  Lizzie arose triumphantly out of her bullying experience.  But Tina Meier’s daughter didn’t arise from the bullying at all.  After some particularly bad cyberbullying by her peers, Meier’s daughter committed suicide.  Tina and Lizzie have teamed up–working to get new federal antibullying legislation passed in the US.

Again, as the audience came to this point in the story, many gasped or covered their mouths in shock.  I simply nodded my head and cried.  Because I already knew Megan’s story.  I knew what had happened to her.  And I knew, just a little of what she felt.  Because as I told Lizzie and Sara after the screening and the Q&A, I could have been one of those kids.  I might have not made it out.  I was bullied relentlessly as a teenager.   I came home sobbing, vomiting and covered with hives from the stress of it.  At times I felt I could no longer take it.  But I got relief.  I didn’t have email or a Facebook account.  At the end of the day, I could escape at home to my loving family.  I had two whole days per week free of it.  Today’s kids do not.  Because of social media, these kids have to deal with this 24 hours per day and seven days a week.  Given that situation, I honestly don’t know if I would have made it.

Lizzie and Sara at the PGA screening.

Lizzie and Sara at the PGA screening.

But this is not a fun or easy or comfortable subject.  Many people who don’t have to deal with this sort of bullying would rather imagine that “it’s not really that bad” or “it’s not that big of a deal.”  Which leads me to the picture posted above.  A student took a photo of that poster.  The picture was posted online and has gone viral.  The original poster stated that the photographer believed that the poster had been taped up with the at least tacit permission of at least one teacher.  And the feathers are flying.  Many people are demanding answers.  Did a teacher know about this poster?  Did a teacher give permission or at least know it was being posted?  Who is the kid responsible for this thing?  And are they being disciplined?

Naturally the social media frenzy puts the school in a bad light.  But in a classic case of spin cycle, the Superintendent stated:

We are aware that a photo is being circulated on social media of a poster from NHS that makes a mean and inappropriate reference to obese students. That poster was not approved by any teacher or staff member and was up no longer than five minutes. The matter is being appropriately handled by the administration.

This is a good example to all of how a 5 minute bad idea can live forever on social media and be distributed with inaccurate references to good people. Rather than having a lifespan of 5 minutes, this poster (with the help of many well-meaning people) was effectively copied and posted in every hallway, classroom, and home. You can help put an end to the unfair reference to NHS staff and the continued distribution of this inappropriate message by deleting or, at the very least, refusing to pass it along. Thank you.

There is a certain amount of sense in choosing not to spread hate with wild abandon.  That’s why I didn’t link to Ms. Arbour’s nonsense and don’t give clicks to a lot of other ugly things out there.  But there are some problems with this response.  First of all 5 seconds in the eyes of a particularly vulnerable person are enough to do irrevocable harm.  5 minutes, in a high school hallway, is an eternity.  And while I respect the school’s right to deal with this problem according to its own policies, I have to vehemently disagree with the idea that simply not sharing this photo will make the problem go away.  (It won’t.) And I think that people need to be confronted with the level of nasty that truly exists before they are tempted to say they don’t have time to be “P.C.” that fat people are just whining and that fat shaming is an imaginary concept.  It is so very, very, very real.

That’s why I applaud Sara Bordo and Lizzie Velasquez for having the courage to show the bullying it all its true ugliness.  Refusing to censor Lizzie’s hate messages along with refusing to drop Megan’s suicide story resulted in the movie receiving a controversial PG13 rating.  This means that most schools won’t be able to screen the film because of the rating.  I find it fascinating that any kid old enough to move a mouse can be exposed to this online without warning and without context or support.  But a movie that explains how bad it is and gives kids and adults tools to discuss it is rated PG 13.

JeanetteAndLizzie

With Lizzie at the screening.

I really want to recommend that you and yours find a way to see this amazing film.  It is a stark look at the brutality of bullying.  It is also a warm, ultimately uplifting story about how bullying can be (sometimes) overcome.  It’s a great starting point for the deep conversations we need to be having about this topic–however more comfortable it might seem to simply walk (or run) away from it.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. I’d like to remind you that the Fat Activism conference is just a few short weeks away.  Ragen and the organizing committee and I have put together an absolutely amazing lineup of speakers who can help you figure out just exactly what can be done.
Register for the Fat Activism Conferenece!

Paradoxically(?!) Fatter Diabetics Live Longer

A few days ago a new study was released which indicates that of people living with type-2 diabetes, those in the overweight category live the longest.  They even live longer than those in the “healthy weight” category.  Newspaper articles like these (TRIGGER WARNING FOR UBIQUITOUS HEADLESS FATTY SHOT) are quick to cite this as another example of the “obesity paradox”.  In case you are unfamiliar with this term, the obesity paradox refers to the fact that despite the fact scientists arbitrarily chose to name a lower weight category “healthy weight” or “normal weight”, the pesky fact remains that those of a higher weight on average live longer.  And while people in the “overweight” category are more likely to contract certain diseases than those in the “healthy weight” category (such as cardiovascular disease) they are more likely to survive these diseases for a longer time.  It’s vexing.  Because, not only does this mess up the whole color scheme of the pretty BMI charts, it also means that we’ve been telling people to slim down to a weight that just might not be in their best interest.

One wonders how long the medical establishment is going to cling to this description of the “obesity paradox”, when the solution is so very simple.  Change your labels.  Change your definition of “healthy weight”.  In fact stop saying “healthy weight” altogether.  Because while certain weights have some advantages over others in some arenas, they are more dangerous than others.  For example recent research indicates that the fattest people are the least likely to suffer from dementia at an early age.

The medical establishment and world at large are unlikely to change these labels any time soon however.  The reason?  Cash.  Money.  Cabbage. Moolah.  Being able to charge over and over again for obesity treatments that don’t work is big money.  Adding the word “obesity” to your research proposal increases the chances of getting funding and increases the amount of funding you are likely to get.  Heck, as Harriet Brown’s excellent article in the Atlantic states–even mentioning the word “obesity” in a medical exam might mean you are able to collect more money for that patient.  That’s why we classify obesity as a disease, even when expert panels in the medical establishment recommended against it.

I wonder when we are going to publicly accept the real obesity paradox.  That we have a situation that occurs naturally in a certain segment of the population, that in some cases is potentially harmful and in some cases is potentially beneficial.  Yet we label it a disease and focus billions of dollars towards trying (unsuccessfully) to change it, without any evidence that changing it will in fact, make people healthier, happier or live longer.  That, to me, is the quintessential definition of a paradox.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Want to book me to speak at your event?  Click HERE to learn more.

Study Proves “Not all Fat People are Unhappy”–Follow up to indicate Papal Affiliation With Catholicism

PopeCatholicSo I got a notice in my inbox this week that a study has been announced that indicates “Not All Fat People are Unhappy.”  And honestly, my first thought was, “Duh.”  I mean it seems quite obvious to me that not all Fat people are miserable, much as it seems obvious that the Pope is Catholic.  But apparently the notion that not all fat people are sick, miserable, about to die and ready to throw in the towel is something we need to prove again and again.

But you know, before I cast to many aspersions on the study, I think maybe we really just need to look at the headline drawn from the study results.  Because there are actually quite a few interesting things indicated by this piece of research.  Let’s look at a few:

1.  Your happiness seems to have a lot more to do with homogeneity than body size.  If you are a fat person who lives in a town with lots of other fat people, you tend to be more happy than if you live somewhere with no other fatties.

2.  The study creators speculate that being fat does not in itself make people unhappy.  In the accompanying press release, study co-author Philip M. Pendergast states:

“In that light, obesity in and of itself, does not appear to be the main reason obese individuals tend to be less satisfied with their lives than their non-obese peers. Instead, it appears to be society’s response to or stigmatization of those that are different from what is seen as ‘normal’ that drives this relationship.”

3.  Women tend to pay a higher emotional price for being fat than men do.  The study creators speculate that this is because women face more social stigma based on body size then men do.  In the press release Pendergast also says,

“Think about the advertising we see on television or in magazines—we are bombarded by images of thin women, and we are told that is the ideal,”

So here is yet another study that seems to indicate that how we feel about our size may have a lot more to do with our actual health and wellness outcomes than what we weigh.  It follows on the heels of many other studies we’ve talked about on this blog regarding stigma and health outcomes like this one or this one.  And all of these studies lead me to ask one very important question.

Even if we knew how to make people permanently thin (which we do not) should we ask them to change their body size to fit in?  If being different leads to social stigma, and social stigma leads to poor health outcomes, should we encourage everybody to be the same for the sake of their health?

Even if we knew how to make people all be the same size (which we categorically do not) it seems to me that the answer is to deal with stigma rather than to make a completely homogeneous society to reduce stress on everyone involved.  What if we actively worked to fight stigma based on body size?  What if we actively worked to help people accept their own differences?  What if we could feel better about our bodies?  Might we be singing a song like this magnificent lady right here?

I mean just check these fabulous lyrics:

I looked in the mirror
What did I see a brand new image
Of the same old me ohhhh
But now I wonder why should I be surprised
I like the things about me that I once despised

There was a time
When I wished my hair was fine
And I can remember when
I wished my lips were thin

Makes no difference now y’all
How you may feel
I’ve done reached the point
Where I wanna be real
I’m tired of living living in disguise
I like the things about me that I once despised

Let’s face it, Mavis Staples has got it going ON!  But she leads me back to my original question.  Why can’t we take some of this time, money and energy that we are currently spending on stigma-inducing ineffective advertising that convinces people that they not only must be thin, but may easily obtain this state of grace by eating yogurt, and spend it on something that might actually help people feel better?  It will help them feel better emotionally, and it will help them feel better physically.  Why can’t we take some of the time, energy and money we are spending driving wedges into our society, by creating classes of otherness which we can blame for all our problems from the high cost of airplane tickets to soaring healthcare prices and spend it on something that teaches us to celebrate our differences.  It will bring us together.  It will help us live and breathe as a community rather than a simple pile of competitors in a winner-take-all, Victoria’s Secret model competition.  When will we reach the obvious conclusions?  Bears poo in the woods, stigma doesn’t help people, and yes, the Pope is indeed Catholic.

Call me captain obvious if you like.  I’ve stopped spending on diets and weight loss schemes and self hatred because I like the things about me that I once despised.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Join my mailing list and get free stuff!  Get a boost!  Have a Laugh!  ;o)

Does Eating Margarine Cause Divorce? Correlation is not Causation.

There’s a lot of buzz on the list serves about a new website that just launched called Spurious Correlations.  The site reports a new “correlation” each day.  For example, the site points out that the correlation in Maine between eating margarine and divorce is over 99 percent.  Does this mean that Maine residents who want to maintain their matrimonial bond need to switch right on over to butter?  I mean 99 percent seems pretty darn compelling, right?  There are lots of other important correlations listed on the site including:

Per capita consumption of mozzarella cheese and civil engineering doctorates awarded–95%

Honey producing bee colonies and the marriage rate in Vermont–93%

US domestic price of uranium with accidental poisoning by alcohol–97%

Spurious Correlations is a wonderful tool for demonstrating that oh so important axiom, “correlation is not causation”.  This means that just because two things tend to happen together does not necessarily mean that one causes the other.  They might have a third agent which is causing them to happen together or they might have no relationship to one another whatsoever outside of a random statistical similarity.

I think that Spurious Correlations is a fascinating site.  I’ve spent way too much time tooling around in there.  But I also think it is an important tool for helping us understand our world.  Because so many of the people writing and talking about science on websites and blogs, on television, in magazines and newspapers get this relationship between correlation and causation so very wrong.  I think in some cases the writers and speakers don’t understand the difference.  But in other cases, I think the writers are very clear about the difference and simply report correlation as causation because it makes better headlines or sells more product.  Take this blog post for example.  I don’t have any proof that buying margarine causes a single divorce in Maine.  But I imply that there might be a cause by asking the question in the headline: “Does Eating Margarine Cause Divorce”?  It’s easy to see why I did that.  “Per Capital Margarine Consumption in Maine Closely Correlates with Divorce Rate” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  But I think most people would agree that even though butter tastes a whole lot better, eating oleo is unlikely to be the cause for divorce.  Either something else is going on to connect these two statistics, or they are completely unrelated.  So the difference between correlation and causation here is pretty easy to spot.

But what about the correlation between the total number of computer science doctorates awarded and total arcade revenue.  These two facts correlate at over 98 percent.  And it would be pretty easy to formulate a theory about how these two facts are related.  Maybe when there are more computer science students, it means there are more nerds that love to play arcade games.  Maybe more computer science doctorates means there are more nerds qualified to design and implement great arcade games.  With just the tiniest whiff of a potential relationship, our minds naturally leap to find ways that one of these facts could cause the other.  But there remains the very distinct possibility that there is no causal relationship whatsoever between these two statistics.

I find this particularly relevant in our current national hysteria over obesity.  It seems every week there is a new study claiming that this thing or that thing causes obesity.  And everywhere you look you see “proof” that obesity causes this problem or that problem.  But I think it is important for us to keep our wits about us and take a look whether these studies can sufficiently demonstrate that two correlated facts have a causal relationship.  For example, people are spending more time in front of computer screens than ever before.  Some have suggested that increased screen time causes obesity.  But do we know that is true?  Or are these things simply happening at the same time.  We also have more 24 hour gyms than in the previous century.  Is it reasonable to suggest that the increase in 24 hour gyms causes obesity?  Maybe dieting causes obesity, or exposure to certain plastics?  Heck, based on the correlation, one could easily suggest that talking about obesity increases obesity levels!  And how about the rise in medical insurance costs and the rise in obesity.  Does a larger number of fat people cause higher insurance rates or is there something else going on?  The question of the rise in health insurance rates is detailed and complex but how many people have simply jumped to the conclusion that the fatties are making their monthly premiums higher.  How many of us take the time to understand: the only way that we can prove that one thing causes for another is through careful experimentation where as many other variables as possible are ruled out and a causal agent is ultimately found.

So when you come across studies that demonstrate a relationship between say obesity and heart disease or obesity and cognitive function, I urge you not to just jump blindly onto the causation train.  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Has this study adequately controlled for other causal factors?  Has it controlled for diet, physical activity levels, socioeconomic status, access to good healthcare, education, etc.?
  • Has this study identified a causal link that demonstrates why these two things are happening at the same time?
  • Is it possible that these two statistics are simply randomly related with no causal relationship whatsoever?

That is not to say that correlation never go together.  All causal relationships are also correlations.  But not all correlations contain causation.  These are important facts to keep in mind the next time you read a headline screaming about the causes of obesity or harm caused by obesity–or the next time you decide to buy margarine in Maine.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to go on a virtual vacation?  Ragen and I over at the Fit Fatties Forum are launching Virtual Vacations that allow you to exercise while virtually visiting some of the world’s most fabulous cities!

 

On Golf, Waffle House and Becoming a Professional Hater

Recently, Bubba Watson won what is arguably the most important title in professional Golf–The Masters.  He didn’t go to Disney World to celebrate.  Nope,  Watson celebrated his 1.6 Million dollar winnings by taking his family for a celebratory feast at a Waffle House restaurant.  He tweeted the event to his 1 Million plus followers and the tweet went viral.  The photo shows Bubba sitting next to his wife and best friend (Judah Smith, a pastor from Seattle).  By and large the coverage was positive.  Not only had Bubba managed to win the Masters for a second time, he had brought attention to an event that had primarily received coverage for the fact that Tiger Woods would NOT be attending.  He managed to make a sport that is often seen as the exclusive playground of the rich seem more fun and less stuffy.

But not everyone was complimentary about Bubba’s trip to Waffle House for Grilled Cheese and Hash Browns.  Apparently, self-appointed food policewoman, Katherine Tallmadge recently appeared on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox recently–bashing Bubba for being a “poor example” of how athletes should eat–at least in public.  Tallmadge fumed:

“Well, it would be great if celebrities and sports figures set a better example for our obese nation,” Katherine Tallmadge huffed to Fox TV host Neil Cavuto.

“There’s nothing wrong with the Waffle House if it’s an occasional splurge, but these gazillionaires love to show Americans that they’re one of you. And so, to win a popularity contest, they go to Waffle Houses, diners, steak places, when in reality, to be a great athlete or a celebrity in good shape, they don’t really eat like that.”

Okay, let’s break this apart, shall we?  This guy won one of the highest titles in the land for one is arguably one of the most nerve-wracking sports on the planet but gets publicly scourged on a national level for eating some hash browns at Waffle House?  Would it be better if he ate hash browns in secret where nobody could see.  Is he failing to sport the fashionable eating disorder that should accompany any person receiving this much public attention.

And apparently, along with basic information about nutrition, registered dieticians receive training in clairvoyance and divination.  Because although Tallmadge really doesn’t know Bubba or anything about his personal life, she feels she can safely comment on:

1.  What Bubba eats on a regular basis.

2.  Why Bubba took his family to Waffle House.

3.  What all real sports stars eat on a regular basis.

4.  Bubba’s general health status and physical condition.

Were Tallmadge ACTUALLY able to discern all of this about someone she’s probably never even met, she might warrant some of the media attention she’s recently received.  Because, wow–MAGIC.  Unfortunately, all Tallmadge is really able to do here is receive media attention by making self-righteous and unfounded assumptions about famous people that are just controversial enough to earn her some air time.  Naturally Tallmadge has appeared often on television shilling her “nondiet eating plan for losing weight”.  Forgive me if I don’t name her program or give it much credence.  When people start talking about losing weight by eating right and not dieting, I tend to have trust issues.

Tallmadge’s web site is full of references to her multitudinous media appearances.  And it all tends to remind me of another woman who appears a lot in the media–MeMe Roth.  Ms. Roth has a degree in Journalism and had built a career working for top Public Relations companies. She also received a Health Counseling Certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2008.  The institute’s teachings and requirements have been called into question.  But none of that stopped Roth from appearing in the media over and over again as an “Obesity Expert” (airquotes evident) who felt perfectly justified in telling fat people that they are ugly and useless and a scourge on society.  Roth has made a media career out of being a professional hater.  I’ve personally gone up against her brand of nastiness on the Dr. Drew show and have watched her scream and stomp and spit her way through many interviews since.  She gets booked because she is a spectacle.  She’s the train wreck that pulls the viewer over the commercial break.  And her work on television would be laughable if it weren’t for the terrible damage she does to people of all sizes.  She damages large people because she convinces them that they are ugly and worthless and unfit to join society at their current size.  She damages smaller people by confirming for them that staying small is without question the most important thing they can do with their lives.  While Tallmadge certainly sports somewhat better credentials–she seems to be headed along the same trajectory.  She’s garnering massive media attention by serving as a professional food nanny–whether we’ve ordered one up or not.

I am often reminded of this clip from “Ratatouille”–one of my favorite movies ever.  In this clip, the famous food critic waxes philosophical about his role as a critic and how it stacks up against the role of creator in his industry:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so..”

In that same way, I wonder about the work of a professional hater.  They risk very little and create very little other than wagging their finger in a mildly entertaining way at the rest of us.  Those of us who are writing books and inspiring others and winning international golf titles.  I wonder if those of us who are winners and creators in the world might find a way to simply ignore these haters–like the unwelcome and uninvited house fly buzzing around our banquets.  I wonder if we do this, if future employment opportunities for professional haters might be a little less rosy.  But for now, if you’ll excuse me I’m headed out to eat some waffles.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Wanna join my list and get free stuff?  Subscribe already?  It’s free and it’s fun!

Protecting your Heart from new Weight Loss Drugs

Well it’s that time of year again.  The time of year that we talk about cupids and Valentines and love and stuff.  And, as a good friend of mine on facebook pointed out, we’ve also reached the golden moment where post-Valentine’s day chocolate is 50% off.  It’s the time of year when we think about our hearts.

So in this spirit, I thought I’d write about a new controversy brewing over two new weight loss drugs/combinations that have recently been approved by the FDA.  In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved two new sets of magic beans, I mean “weight loss drugs” lolorcaserin hydrochloride (brand name Belviq, manufactured by Eisai Inc.) and phentermine-topiramate (brand name Qsymia, manufactured by Vivus, Inc.).

People have been pretty excited about these coming out, especially since a number of other “weight-loss” drugs have been taken off the market due to concerns over cardiac side-effects.  Now one might think, in light of the fact that we put thousands of people at risk with the previous round of “weight loss” drugs, that the FDA might be extra careful not to release a new round of weight loss drugs with the same problems.

Not so fast, say a pair of doctors in an editorial recently published in the February 10, edition of JAMA.  In this article, Steven Woloshin, MD, and Lisa M. Schwartz, MD, point out that these drugs were approved by the FDA despite an alarming number of side effects.   In the abstract for the piece the doctors state:

The drugs have been associated with serious harms: Both drugs’ labels include warnings about memory, attention, or language problems and depression; for lorcaserin, the label also warns of valvular heart disease and euphoria; and for phentermine-topiramate, the label warns of metabolic acidosis, increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, and elevated creatinine levels. Neither medication is marketed in Europe because of safety concerns.

And as I read these words, all I can think is, “Here we go again!”  The drugs were approved under the condition that the drug manufacturers would conduct studies looking into the drugs’ heart risks.   According to the FDA, waiting until such studies were completed to approve the drugs would “delay effective therapy” for obesity.  The post marketing trials that were required to begin 16 months ago, do not appear to have begun.  And even once those trials begin, those studies are not scheduled to be finished for another four or five years.  And in the meantime we’re prescribing drugs known to potentially cause memory, language, attention, mood and serious vascular and inflammatory problems because some trials have shown short-term weight loss improvements of 3 to 7 percent over placebo.  There are no studies indicating long-term weight loss improvements in those who take these medications.  Nor, as Doctors Woloshin and Schwartz point out, is there any proof that these medications prevent disease or help us live any longer.

In the meantime we play with people’s hearts both literally and figuratively.  In a culture and a society where many of us are taught that being overweight is the worst possible situation, doctors are peddling hope in the form of these pills.  And rather than rule out potential cardiac and other serious heart attacks before the drugs are prescribed, doctors prescribe these pills to hundreds of people and “expose a lot of people to it while sorting it out,” said Woloshin.

So we can hope that the “post marketing studies” will actually begin and show no serious, long-term side effects like the permanent heart-valve damage we’ve seen from similar drugs in the past.  We can hope that we won’t market these drugs as the next great hope for people hoping to escape the pain of weight stigma in our society just to have to pull them off the market a short time later.

But I fear this is yet another page in the weight-loss-fantasy playbook likely to leave a string of broken hearts.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)