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Caught teh FATZ.

September 22, 2009
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Hey everybody, look! Science!. Teh fatz are contagious! You will catch it! Wash your hands and hate fat people!

Apparently, hanging out with fat people makes you more likely to be fat. Wait, strike that, if you spend time around people with a higher BMI, you are likely to have a higher BMI. Now, I’ve only had two terms of social science statistical analysis (plus math camp, but I don’t know if that counts), but something tells me there’s some fishy interpretative mumbo jumbo happening here. It couldn’t be that, a lot of the time, our social circles are defined in terms of like attractiveness, that people tend to spend time with, date and marry people who are at a similar level of attractiveness (as socially defined). It also couldn’t be that, well, we just didn’t use BMI in 1948, how are these numbers comparable? And, hey, remember when the NIH adjusted the borders of the BMI categories and redefined some 30 million Americans as “overweight” who had been “normal” before? But fat. Contagious.

The usual missteps in logic are at play here (high BMI = fat = unhealthy = KILL THE BEAST). And of course, even if fat were “contagious” in some social way, would any response to that manage to not be super bigoted? Probably not.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    September 22, 2009 7:22 PM

    Oh noes! Run away!

    But actually… I found this caption on the (weird blob-y thing) graphic interesting “The condition’s virulent infection rate led to dramatic clumping as weight classes self-segregated” (emphasis mine). Hmmm….if weight classes “self-segregate,” wouldn’t that point to sociological factors rather than epidemic or genealogical reasons? It’s no wonder fat people clump together. People who belong to groups that are considered “undesirable” or less valuable in society tend to come together, for comfort, for solidarity, and just to be away from all the damn “get thin now!” nagging.

    • Jill permalink
      September 22, 2009 7:44 PM

      Yeah, I think the “virus” metaphor is really problematic in general, both because of how it both makes fat a disease (which, of course, we know, it isn’t) and makes fat people veritable Typhoid Marys, not just of illness, but also spreading the diseased idea that restricting your body is not the only way to live. It’s a line of thinking it seems many people can’t escape.

      And you’re totally right about seeking comfort and solidarity. From the summary, this was just not a very thoughtful study.

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