Scared to Death.

“Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.”

J.K. Rowling wrote those words years ago, and I’ve seen it posted time and time again on sites like Tumblr and Facebook. When put in such a context, it seems almost silly that we’d consider fat such an awful thing to be when there are so many less-desirable traits that are much more harmful.

But out in the so-called ‘real world’, the fear-mongering continues. Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign and the recent Disney Habit Heros exhibit are just two of the constant barrage new and inventive ways that media and corporations use to fat-shame children under the guise of health.

So it shouldn’t be surprising when stories like this come out. A Wisconsin couple starved their newborn baby against repeated advice of their doctor, convinced that their daughter was going to get fat. At the baby’s four month checkup, she weighed just 7lbs 6oz. Most children weigh more than that at birth.

“Mr Sultze reportedly told a doctor he didn’t want to have obese children and kept insisting his daughter would ‘get fat’ at the hospital.”

Without a doubt, this is terrible parenting and flat out child abuse. But do you know what that is? Fear. Instead of fearing that your child would grow up to be a bad person, that they’d be greedy or mean-spirited or selfish, god-forbid the child be fat. THAT would be the worst.

It’s almost (almost) understandable when you read stories like this, children torn away from their homes and their families because they’re too fat. These stories point an almost accusatory finger at the reader. “If you don’t watch what your child eats, it could happen to YOU too!” And yet we somehow are horrified and surprised when stories like the Sultze’s appear.

But that’s what shame and fear does, brilliantly illustrated. When you concentrate too much on the intake of a child, constantly deprive them or forbid them, what do you expect? When they grow up looking at billboards of fat children with headlines talking about disease and death, it affects them. When they’re required to measure their BMI in school, it affects them. And ultimately, it’s going to go one way or the other. The child will either end up eating more, as a coping mechanism, or end up restricting in an extraordinarily unhealthy way. Obesity rates may be largely the same in the past 12 years or so, but the rate of eating disorders (especially in children) has shot through the roof.

Why are we surprised?

But of course, it gets worse.

Just this past week a grandmother and stepmother were charged with murder for forcing a young girl to run for three hours straight because she ate a candy bar and later lied about it. She died. Let me repeat that: They made her run until she died.

This is what fear does. It paralyzes people and makes them act irrationally. And while people are so convinced that obesity kills, these terrifying ways that they’re trying to prevent fat are, in a number of ways, even worse.

Moving joyfully should be encouraged. Eating intuitively should be encouraged. Not using food as a reward, cutting out fast food as much as possible. But no matter how much activity some people get, no matter how healthy they eat, some people are always going to be fat. It’s nothing to be afraid of. We are nowhere near close to fully understanding the human body or how it works, but it doesn’t work in one uniform way. It works differently for different people. Based on genetics, based on environment, based on a hundred different factors. It’s so much more than calories in vs. exercise out.

Fear of being unhealthy is killing people. It makes them do more unhealthy things than they would if they just accepted and treated their bodies well without trying to change them.

The fear has to stop.

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12 Responses to Scared to Death.

  1. qwert says:

    Absolutely brutal how fat phobic our society is. Noone ever bats an eye at a skinny kid who eats nothing but junk food but as soon as a fat kid so much as thinks of a candy bar they are immediately shamed. But its not just food, they are shamed for everything they do, ridiculed when they go out and play, ridiculed when they want to be social and looked down on by other parents, their own parents, other kids, and their doctors.

    • Adipose Activist says:

      It truly is strange. I mean we ALL know that person in our lives who can eat and eat and eat whatever’s set in front of them and no matter what, they don’t gain an ounce. No matter how much McDonalds, no matter how sedentary they are, they stay at the sane weight. And since there’s no ‘outward signs’ of bad health, they receive no stigma. But whenever someone fat even LOOKS at the bakery aisle or walks into a fast food restaurant, BAM! THAT’S why they’re fat! They’re lazy, they’re not trying hard enough, it’s their fault. It’s so easy to accept that some people have fast metabolisms, but no one wants to admit that some people have slow metabolisms and other issues that, no matter what, their weight just isn’t going to come off.

  2. Em says:

    While I agree with most of what you said, you should probably do a little more research before writing about a case. Many parents use exercise as a form of punishment, and this was the case in the little girl who died after running. The article states “Authorities say the grandmother became angry when Savannah allegedly ate chocolate, because it contains caffeine, and the girl was not supposed to ingest caffeine given her condition” (source:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106370/Savannah-Hardin-9-run-death-lying-eating-candy.html).

    It had nothing to do with calories. It had nothing to do with the little girl being fat or getting fat. It’s a sad case, but irrelevant to your argument.

    • Adipose Activist says:

      The grandmother’s argument is irrelevant. If you look at the caffeine content of some of the most common candy bars (Reeses, Kit Kat, York, just plain old milk chocolate), there’s generally speaking less caffeine than in two cups of decaffeinated coffee. (source: http://www.thehersheycompany.com/nutrition-and-wellness/chocolate-101/caffeine.aspx) No, the sugar and fat content of your average candy bar FAR outweighs caffeine content, and thereby it’s much more likely that THAT was the issue the grandmother had, regardless of any statement she gave to police or the press.

      Regardless, if the grandmother was upset about the child ingesting caffeine, to what end does running serve as a suitable punishment? It certainly doesn’t ‘burn off’ caffeine. And considering the ‘unspecified medical condition’ the girl had which requires ‘continuous medication and treatment’, it just doesn’t jive. You don’t take a girl who’s already sick and make her do vigorous activity of any kind for 3+ hours. I don’t think it’s irrelevant to my argument at all.

      • P says:

        The grandmother’s “argument” wasn’t her argument at all; she’s not the one that diagnosed her with a medical condition, and specified that she should not digest chocolate based on its caffeine content. She was taking measures to avoid her granddaughter’s caffeine intake based on the doctors orders, and the girl knowingly did something against her grandmother’s and doctor’s rules.

        Does it matter to what end running serves as a suitable punishment? Punishment is punishment- what is the purpose of putting a child in a corner when they’ve done something wrong? To sit still better? To learn about different corners of their house? And on the note of “continuous medication and treatment,” that DOES jive. That’s what medications and treatments are for; to help people live normal lives.

        Running isn’t a “vigorous” activity. The girl died of dehydration and lack of sodium, which both can be rooted before the running even took place. It clearly states she came from a bad family- what if she didn’t have any sodium or fluids for the next 24 hours? She probably would have seized, even without the running.

        The girl died because of a shitty family. She didn’t run to death. Her family is to blame, obviously, but it is unfortunate that she died doing something that lots of people do for amusement and exercise.

    • Jackie Yoshi says:

      What is wrong with you people? This girl was begging her grandmother to let her stop running. Imagine this girl begging, “Please let me stop running! I’ll be a good girl from now on! It hurts so much! I can’t breathe!” would you just stand by and let that happen? This grandmother wants to justify running her granddaughter to death, because of a medical condition Savannah had? So then she should’ve realized running a child like a race horse, until they’re hardly able to breathe or move isn’t good for her health either.

      Savannah also was vomiting she was ran sohard, vomiting is veryupsetting for children. Savannah’s last moments were living a horror film. Would you watch a horror film, where someone ran a woman until she died, showing her suffering? If you would be offended if that happened fictionally, why are you acting as if there’s any justification for this in reality. Do you not know the difference between punishment and torture?

      Nothing can justify what was done to Savvanah, NOTHING. Only a complete monster could stand there, watching a child feeling as if she’s drowning, her legs burning like they were lit on fire, and keep telling her to run.

  3. George says:

    This is something to be scared of: According to the CDC 112,000 deaths a year are linked to obesity in the U.S. Not just for heart and diabetes complications.

    Obese people should be ashamed of themselves. Drug users should be ashamed of themselves. Smokers should be ashamed of themselves. Fat people aren’t victims, Amber.

    At the end of the day, you’re responsible for the sum of your actions: Who you are.

    Have you asked a doctor recently? The very real and life threatening implications of being fat or obese? The list is endless, and just because you’re young, you’re not in a hospital, on a ventilator, crashing with tubes sticking out of you.

    But you don’t want to hear that.. its your defense mechanism. Misery loves company.

    Really Amber, stop justifying obesity. Admit to yourself that you have a problem. Start living a healthy lifestyle, for your sake, and for mine(I will have to pay for you when you become disabled)

    • Adipose Activist says:

      Isn’t it interesting that you read what you’d like to read instead what’s actually being presented. Clearly you didn’t read my ‘what is fat acceptance’ post which is chock-full of irrefutable evidence. Sadly, you’re biased and closed minded and so no matter what logic anyone throws at you, you will stay firm in your opinion.

      Your information is wrong, by the way, it’s been proven that the deaths from so-called ‘obesity’ related causes is much closer to 26,000. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/293/15/1861.abstract “The impact of obesity on mortality may have decreased over time, perhaps because of improvements in public health and medical care. These findings are consistent with the increases in life expectancy in the United States and the declining mortality rates from ischemic heart disease.”

      By the way, there’s a huge difference between causation and correlation.

      I actually have asked multiple doctors about the so-called implications of obesity. Dr. Linda Bacon. Dr. Deah Schwartz, Dr. Steven Blair. There’s also Michelle of fatnutritionist.com, who is, as her blog says, a fat nutritionist.

      Many fat people get mistreated or misdiagnosed due to their weight because doctors are so quick to blame everything that’s wrong with a fat person on their weight that they don’t even ATTEMPT to look at underlying causes. OBVIOUSLY that’s going to affect these statistics. Many people are going to be lumped into the category of being ~killed by fat~ when really it was other things that lazy doctors just wanted to attribute to their weight.

      Nice try with the Vague Future Health Threat (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/vfht-the-vague-future-health-threat/) and the stupid ~i pay for your health insurance~ excuse that’s not even remotely valid. (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/your-money-and-my-fat-ass/)

      You killed your own argument with “…should be ashamed of themselves”. Shame never fixed anything. Shame is a good way to make things worse, actually.

      You also killed your argument by assuming what you think my lifestyle is, or that it’s unhealthy. Have I ever once spoken about my personal health on this blog besides my binge eating post? Yeah, no. You know what they say about people who assume.

      Nice try (except not really) If you want to try again with an argument that I actually HAVEN’T heard you might impress me.

  4. George says:

    You’re delusional. You’re in denial. It’s to be expected, but it’s not helping you or others get better. Amber, obtaining or maintaining a personal weight which is considered obese is, very much in fact, a HUGE health risk. It’s natural that you’ll try to deny this, and search the internet for the smallest death rates from ridiculous and (not so credible sources), but.. the very fact that you continuously have to defend yourself and the obese, make it apparent that there is something very wrong with it.

    Amber, obese people don’t eat carrots and celery every day, let’s face it. They eat tremendous amounts of fat, sugar, and salt and then they don’t move. It’s an assumption, but, IT’S the TRUTH. It’s a self indulgent lifestyle.

    Amber, the death rates associated with obesity are probably much higher than the numbers that are being reported from the GOVERNMENT, (not some silly blog) You see, I work in healthcare, I’ve witnessed 2 obese people at two different hospitals die from phenomena, if they were at healthy weights, they would have survived. One obese patient died because the doctor was unable to perform an emergency tracheotomy because there was too much fat obstructing her airway.

    My points are clear and factual, but your denial is too potent. Here is an article, pointing out that death rates from obesity are catching up to tobacco.

    New York times reporting on death rates associated with poor diet and inactivity.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/10/us/death-rate-from-obesity-gains-fast-on-smoking.html

  5. wriggles says:

    “Here’s something to be scared of”
    Alright, so err, let’s all get scared because “George” tells us we must follow his orders, even though we are “responsible for our own actions”. We’ve already been scared witless, if you missed it,, George you missed it. We’re not going to repeat it all just for you.

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