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Fat is contagious! Run for your lives!

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:05pm
Fat is now considered "contagious."

Why do I ever doubt the creativity of obesity researchers? They really have it going on.

Apparently, a new study showed that if you have fat friends, you're going to get fat, too.

The chances of a person "developing obesity"* increased 57% if a friend was obese, 40% if a sibling was, and 37% if a spouse was.

This is now more likely to determine your weight than genetics, the researchers say.

"We were stunned to find that friends who are hundreds of miles away have just as much impact on a person's weight status as friends who are right next door," said co-author James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego.

Researchers think it's more than just people with similar eating and exercise habits hanging out together. Instead, it may be that having relatives and friends who become obese changes one's idea of what is an acceptable weight.

So let me get this straight here: many of my friends I've met through this blog. Most of them, I've never seen pictures of. Therefore, I'm more likely to weigh what they do because they determine what an acceptable body weight is.

Here's a novel idea for you: what if we through out all preconceptions of an "acceptable weight"? What if an acceptable weight was whatever your own DNA told you to be at? What if we stopped asking stupid questions that could only yield stupid answers?

However, the researchers did caution severing friendships with obese people. Even the globe-trotting man with almost untreatable TB was not advised to ditch his wife. She was there in her little mask with him during interviews. No one said, "Get divorced." Or "Don't see each other." Wearing a mask is advisable, certainly. So what? Now you're supposed to wire your mouth shut around friends who have "unacceptable" weights?

I'm sorry, but if my friend found my weight unacceptable, I'd ditch them long before they could ditch me.

But wait: there's more.

"If you're just a little bit heavy and everyone around you is quite heavier, you will feel good when you look in a mirror," said Dr. David Katz , director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center.

Yep. Judge your self-worth based on your weight. Damn, don't I know where that leads. So their "new" proposal is to focus on getting whole groups of people to lose weight.

And damn, don't I know where that leads, too.

There is a little part that makes sense. It reminds me of pro-anorexia. Of the group fasts, of the posting of " thinspiration ", of the cognitive reinforcement of the need to lose weight. And from that standpoint, it makes at least a tad of sense. It's really cognitive behavioral therapy, given in a effed up way.

The irony is that the "ideal" figure out there is so thin or so muscular that it's completely unattainable. Look at a magazine, feel fat. Look at a friend, feel thin. So what the hell are you supposed to do?

Stop looking at others for figuring out how you're supposed to look. That's the underlying assumption of this study. That you look to others to decide how and what you're supposed to be. Imagine telling an African-American with primarily white friends that they need to lighten their skin because they look "too dark" around them. Or a tall basketball player to lop a couple of inches off their legs because they look too tall against other people.

We would never say it 1) because it's rude and degrading and 2) because it's not true! Prejudice against fat people has the same name as prejudice against any other group of people: bigotry.

And now I've just proven that stupidity is far more contagious than obesity ever will be. Quad erat demonstratum.

*An asinine term if ever there was one. It's not a disease. You don't "develop" blonde hair or blue eyes or a hairy chest. In fact, it's not even a decent term.

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