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May 30, 2006

Oppression Syndrome

FistsI’m taking on a big topic today, and I’ll tell you right up front that there won’t be a neatly ribboned answer at the end…you’ll have more questions than answers.

I’ve been thinking about stress and body image and living in an environment where you’re subtly (and not so subtly) told that you’re not acceptable – because of your body size. Can this factor alone (what is known as “oppression syndrome”) account for the erroneous belief that “fat kills.”

A book I’ve been reading (“The Mind Body Diabetes Revolution” by Richard Surwit, Ph.D.) put into black and white what I’ve believed all along (from personal experience) that diabetes control can be made worse by stress and that the disease itself can also be caused by stress. Before I read this revolutionary phrase in Dr Surwit’s book, all the articles, books, journals I’d read previously never went so far as to suggest that diabetes can be caused by stress (and I’m talking the mental/emotional kind of stress, not being dangled by your heels over a vat of sucrose). Can being under the miasma of fear, disgust and self-loathing that body dissatisfaction brings cause conditions such as more weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer?

Consider this. Instilling fat phobia seems to be the number one priority for our government, health professionals and media, despite huge body of credible evidence demonstrating that not only is the “growing fatter” argument is junk science/statistic contortions, and there are few (credible) links between extra weight and disease. Example: recently there was and continues to be a lot of interest in the study that found a connection between greater weights and diet soda, ie those that drank diet soda were heavier than those that didn’t. Their conclusion? Diet sodas make you fat. That’s like saying more crumbs are found in homes without dogs than those with dogs, therefore people without dogs are poor housekeepers. Or that there are more gay people than straight people at a gay pride meeting – therefore meetings cause people to become gay.

The recent article proclaiming that Americans were more likely to know about American Idol than to know about the (alleged) link between obesity and cancer was more of the same kind of poor science/poor journalism that contributes to the oppressive environment of body non-acceptance.

The unsubstantiated claims in this article can be used one of two ways – add to your fear and stress or 2) example to use to identify an organization jumping on the obesity bandwagon.

Perhaps I do agree with this article after all – fatness can cause every disease and syndrome known or unknown to mankind through indifference or malpractice….when you go to the doctor with a complaint, and you’re told that the answer is to lose weight and exercise more, without an exam, that makes a little muscle and fat a dangerous thing. Even if you’re at a fitness level that professional atheletes strive to achieve, if you’re a woman that’s still not “model slim” you can be told that you need to lose weight and exercise to cure your fatigue and back pain. Later you find out that you have a fast growing/debilitating bone marrow cancer that’s achieved stage 4 by the time someone finally listens to you, and you’re walking around with 3 or 4 crushed vertebrae (which makes you shorter, and therefore according to the height/weight charts you’re now borderline “obese”). That's a true story.

Yes, fat (prejuidice) kills.   

picture is taken from Largesse, the network for size esteem.

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Posted by Gina V. on May 30, 2006 | Permalink


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You go girl!!!! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed (and always enjoy) your articles, insights and musings. You've comments about the medical profession's fat prejudice has mirrored my own experience so completely and I was stunned to find out I am not alone. Because I am overweight, I have had doctor's misdiagnose painful ulcers and a pretty severe nueorlogical condition as being "obese". I have learned that if you are overweight and you know something isn't right, you have to press on until you get a diagnoses other than---calorie restriction.

Posted by: ilene | May 30, 2006 4:25:48 PM

Hey, thanks for addressing this! I was curious about it after a conversation on the SMTD email list. I'm very interested in this subject, and I've been following your blog for a while now.

Thanks also for addressing my questions about how 'weight loss-oriented' the Green Mountain at Fox Run program is. I appreciate your openness.

Posted by: Michelle Murphy | Jun 6, 2006 12:09:55 AM

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