Battlepanda: Let's talk (sensibly) about fat


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Let's talk (sensibly) about fat

Ampersand says it right. There is definitely an anti-fat mentality in our society that is irrational, didactic, and potentially dangerous. There is nothing we can do about people's aesthetics. But we must prevent that aesthetic from being conflated with health concerns.

If anything, the attempts to achieve Hollywood thinness backfire and might even result in long-term weight gain since it is well-known that yo-yo dieting messes with both one's metabolism and one's motivations for eating.

Ironically, even as I am writing this, I am on a diet right now. But you see, I'm going back to Taiwan to visit my mother in a few weeks, and I'm on a futile mission to deflect some of the disapproval I'm going to be copping. I think I just might be considered morbidly obese there (here, I'd probably be on the chunky side of normal for my age). Interestly, unlike Americans, Taiwanese women has enormous success with dieting and keeping their weight down for that appealing sparrowlike look. But to what end? It only means that the standards for acceptability shifts further down the scale, and weight loss becomes even more of an obsession for all the girls. Health doesn't enter into the calculus at all. In fact, women are often terrified of building muscle and thus appearing bulky.

Interesting though, I don't hear much about anorexia in Taiwan despite the oppressive culture of dieting. It could be that it's just not paid as much attention. I don't know. But sometime I wonder whether the hyper-individualistic and permissive value system in America and the almost fascistic insistance on thinness collide for spectacularly bad outcomes (more anorexia AND more morbid obesity.) Cooking shows and commercials often feature rail-thin women concocting outrageously rich food, or waxing rhapsodic over chocolate bars. If a woman in a movie is shown being strict about her diet, it's a sure sign that she's a terrible, upright prude. (Yet her sympathetic counterpart, who is shown eating whatever she wants, is just as skinny.) Can we say mexed missages?