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Living Large on NPR

November 16, 2011

Being an enormous nerd, I am a huge NPR listener.  They’ve been doing an ongoing series about obesity in America, featuring stories across many of their programs.  The topics they’re covering range from the affect of culture to what companies are doing to encourage a healthy lifestyle, from poverty and obesity in Mississippi to increased obesity in super-fit Colorado.  Some highlights:

  • Big, Fat Stereotypes Play Out On The Small Screen.
    This is the first piece I heard on my very favorite program, Morning Edition, and the one that really got my attention due to my obsessive love of TV.  It was about fat stereotypes playing out on television, particularly for women.  They talked briefly about Huge, mostly in the context of Ashley Fink who has gone on to play Lauren Zizes on Glee.  She is a fantastic actress and total badass who has mad swagger.  They also talk about the how totally and completely awful weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser are, and how that can fuel psychological issues including eating disorders.
  • Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat and Biology.
    Another piece from Morning Edition, this really showcased the scientific research that says that dieting is super difficult and sometimes ridiculous.  They talk about biology resisting the negative energy balance necessary to lose and keep of weight.  This is a great story to combat the lazy/no will-power line that many fat people get.  This story also touches on the emotional effect of losing and gaining/regaining weight, something especially pertinent in my own life.  This story starts as a downer, but ends with realistic things you can do to help deal with the biological effects of weight loss.
  • For Obese, Intimate Lives Often Suffer, and the next day’s Letters from listeners.
    This piece on All Things Considered focused on the issues surrounding obesity and sexuality.  How couples feel and communicate plays a large role, but in the story and (obviously) life.  The piece mostly focuses on couples and about how people feel relative to sex, not necessarily about satisfaction or performance — something that was addressed the next day in the fantastic listener comments.  The responses were from a person who strongly identified with the story and moved by it but also from a fat/obese person who is very sexually satisfied.
  • The French Are Getting Fatter, Too.
    Ha ha!  Suck it, diet books!  From Weekend Edition Saturday, for so long the french have been like hoh-hoh-hoh ve are so skinny and yew Americans are so le fat!  Well maybe not all the French, but certainly authors of diet books and people on the talk show circuit.  They have great respect for food and meals, which has shielded them for so long, but now because of a variety of factors obesity is on the rise.   Apparently American-esque habits of eating constantly are becoming more prevalent; and while I don’t doubt the effect of pop culture, the America-blaming feels a little cheap.  Whatever, still good.
  • Why Doctors And Patients Talk Around Our Growing Waistlines.
    Another story from my boo, Morning Edition, is really interesting.  So many doctors are so rude when talking about weight!  Only recently did I find a doctor who didn’t treat me like a disappointing fatty.  This story is about the conflict between what doctors and patients talk about during visits.  It’s a sensitive issue, and many people get scared off because doctors stigmatize obesity so much.  People know that fatty foods (etc.) are bad for you, and you don’t need a doctor to tell you that, you need realistic help and support.  This story also makes me think about how doctors are trained and the environment in which they work, where they spend very little time with patients and insurance coverage is a constant restraint.  We need more doctors that can be kind but direct; doctors who can motivate without being dismissive.   I’m lucky to have one of those doctors but I know she is one in a million and I constantly wish every other doctor were as badass as she is.

For all stories in the series, and they are all good, visit the Living Large: Obesity in America page.

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