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Same Ship, Different Decade

It’s been a long week. I’m overwhelmed. I feel powerless. I’ve watched the system fail our big kids too many times. I’ve heard doctors focus on the wrong things too many times.

I’m hoping the courageous pediatricians we know will think about all the youngsters they’ve seen with eating disorders and rise up and reject their professional organization, insisting this small group doesn’t speak for them. I pray they object to these guidelines, refuse to inflict damage on their young and precious patients, reject the advice to set them on a lifelong path of body shame and eating dysfunction… that they’ll live up to the trust we have in them and be the leaders we need them to be.

I suspect you’re feeling something similar.

You don’t need me to tell you what’s wrong with the guidelines. (In case you haven’t read them for yourself and want to, click here for their press releaseclick here for the full report).

You already know they’re a recipe for disaster. You have firsthand knowledge of eating disorders triggered by weight stigma and know plenty of adults – maybe even yourself – whose eating dysfunction was started or worsened by a well-meaning (?) pediatrician who said you were too big. You know that even as adults we have trouble distancing our self-worth from comments about our weight… that our children have even more. Especially when the comments come from an authority figure.

Just don’t be fooled that the American Academy of Pediatrics is using any new data. The industry-funded names and the dates on the references may have changed, but the weight bias is exactly, painfully, infuriatingly the same.
The Recovery Backlash is Here, written December 3, 2009

Last month I wrote about the Recovery Revolution picking up speed and supporters. And just like every revolution, there is bound to be a backlash. The backlash to the Recovery movement is the Persecution movement, as in persecution of larger people (as in larger than our society’s acceptable size limit). Everyone with common sense knows that persecuting people as a weight loss method works as well as shaming pregnant teens works for birth control. In other words, it’s too late. Ineffective. And possibly harmful.

If meanness worked as a behavior change technique, we would be studying bullies and their effectiveness at making nerds cool and loners popular. That’s not how it works. Bullying causes school shootings and suicides. It makes unfortunate situations worse. And when the cowardly bullies are caught in the act, it makes them look foolish and petty.

This is exactly what happened last month at Lincoln University. If you haven’t heard, the University named after our equality-loving president requires larger students to take an extra class in order to graduate. A fitness class for fat kids. This is not a punch line. This is the actual policy of the college.

And when confronted, the bully in charge says that it’s the school’s responsibility to help care for their students’ health by pointing out to heavy students that they have a problem. For their own benefit.

Which is where it becomes apparent that this is not at all about health and all about persecution.

Here’s how you can tell the difference:

1. This policy doesn’t promote health because it isn’t based on a single health parameter! It just assumes based on BMI, which is a terrible proxy for health. “Big people are inherently unhealthy” is ignorant BS.

2. This policy doesn’t promote health because it promotes shame. Not just for bigger students. More stress and shame about bodies in general will lead to more problems among ALL students, including stress-related illnesses, eating disorders, self-harm including destructive weight loss attempts, weight GAIN for those with shame-based eating, and possibly even suicide.

3. This policy doesn’t promote health because if this person were serious about the health of Lincoln University students, they would add classes for students who binge drink, smoke cigarettes, abuse drugs, need anger management or exhibit other risky behaviors.

4. This policy doesn’t promote health because it doesn’t screen for any actual health concerns that could be treated, like heart disease, high blood pressure, skin cancer, diabetes, anorexia, bulimia, depression, anxiety, pornography addiction, etc.

Larger students indeed have a problem, but I sincerely doubt they need anyone to point it out. I suspect they are fully, painfully aware because this issue follows them everywhere they go and plagues their days and nights. This inescapable problem? It’s people judging them as unhealthy because of their size!

Weight persecution continues to be socially acceptable, encouraged and applauded, and it’s certainly not new. That social acceptance causes silence, and it’s that silence we have to fight.|

Let’s bring weight persecution into the light and discuss it as a civil rights issue. You don’t need to be a member of a persecuted group to stand up to inequity and unfairness. Not just because eventually it may affect you, too. Simply because it’s wrong.
The Future is Weighting, written February 10, 2010

Yeah, you’ve missed quite a lot being away all this time. Things have really changed. The whole Humanity’s on the Weigh-Down movement, the Sugar Limit Laws, the M cards and Kcal regulations… Was candy still legal when you left? Oh yeah, that was way back. For a while it was different state to state, but that didn’t really control the problem of course – it was easy enough to cross state lines. Now they’re all federal mandates, so it’s uniform across the states. Before the big government merger you could still get free access to food in Canada and Mexico, but once the border towns were converted into penal colonies, no one risks trying to cross over any more. The black market’s more reliable, and safer.

I remember it started getting really bad around 2010. All the taxes on sugary foods drove the demand up and the prices sky high. After a while the grocery stores downsized their inventory to only carry the processed foods, since no one knows how to cook, so they were losing their shirts from rotting produce. Everything is sold in individual servings, so you can only purchase one day’s worth at a time. It’s for our own protection, ‘cause if you max out your M Card on groceries, you’re out till the next day. In the old days, people would buy groceries at the beginning of the month but run out before the reload. They’d hang around the dumpsters at the end of the month – really sad – waiting for someone to return an order that was wrong.

Now it’s one day at a time, so with the lines so long, I don’t see the point. You’re not allowed to drive to the grocery stores anymore, you have to walk there to earn your food. I’d rather go to a restaurant since there’s no cost benefit to eating at home. See, all the food is subsidized by the government. You don’t use money to buy stuff, you use your state-issued M Card. It stands for Metabolic Card, but nobody calls it that anymore. You get a certain number of K-Cals put on it each year when you go for your Health Check. They used to draw your blood and do all kinds of tests, but now that Health is determined solely by Weight, there’s no point in taking your blood pressure or doing a stress test. They just Mask you and then you’re done. You breathe into the Calorizer and they tell you how many K-Cals you get for the year. I always try to breathe really hard, like hyperventilate, and I eat a huge meal, like all my K-Cals for the day, before I go in. I don’t know if it works for or against me, honestly, but it feels like I have some control over the process.

For a while there were ways to work the system. Like new moms would take their kid to three or four different Health Check offices in one day and enroll one baby three or four times. The computers didn’t sync, so it could take years till anyone caught it. Now the computers all sync at midnight, and the duplicate Cards are deactivated immediately. What’s the point of all that work if you just have the extra K-Cals for one day? Although I’ve heard of people paying big bucks for black market Cards, then finding out that they don’t link to an account. So maybe that’s the payoff – you don’t get the K-Cals for more than one day, but you’re left with the dummy cards to sell.

The birth rate has skyrocketed anyway, since the only time you get your K-Cals increased is if you get pregnant. Now they take your baby as soon as it’s born and Mask it on the spot. By the time you hold your baby for the first time, it already has its K-Cals assigned. The fancy folk will add it to the birth announcement along with the height and weight, but with the paper rations the way they are, only the super-rich can even afford to send birth announcements anymore. I personally think it’s kind of sick to put your kid’s K-Cal level out there for the world to see. You’re basically saying come beat up my kid on the way to school and steal his M Card.

You’d think people have better things to do than care about other peoples’ kids’ metabolisms, but I tell you, it’s right up there with how much you weigh and how much you make in terms of status symbols. I’ve heard of kids with high K-Cals picking on lower K-Cal kids, but the first reported suicide of a low K-Cal kid put a stop to them printing your K-Cals on your lunch tray. I don’t think it’s a big secret, though – even without the number right there, it’s obvious who’s getting dessert and who’s not. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a black market right there in the schools – trading dessert for doing someone else’s P.P. homework, or something like that. Oh yeah, P.P. – that’s what you all used to call P.E. It’s now called P.P., Physical Perfection. It’s where you learn all about how thinness equals superiority and how high burners are the privileged race. The low K-Cal kids have to do exercise during P.P., while the high K-Cal kids get to talk about their feelings and the responsibilities that come from being different.

I wouldn’t know, I’m in the low group. Nobody ever asked about my feelings till you. I’m not sure I feel them any more, but at the beginning I did, before I learned to stuff. The first 9 times you pull out your metabolic card at McD’s and hear, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Sprat, your card has been declined, you’ve already consumed your allotted K-cals for today,’ you simply blush a little and stammer that your wife must have borrowed your card, thanks. After that you just start avoiding the cashier completely and go for the vending machines, in the hopes that something will malfunction and you’ll end up getting something for nothing. My grandpa used to talk about the good old days when he’d check the coin return slot for a nickel that someone else had left behind, but magnetic strips don’t malfunction as often as you would think. Although I did hear a rumor that if you tie a rubber band around your cell phone and your Metabolic Card and call your cell from another phone, you could reprogram the magnetic strip to discharge all of your K-Cals for the month on the 1st day of the month. I don’t see how that would help, since you would just feast for days and then be dumpster-diving by the end of the month, but anyway it didn’t work.

You used to could find an anorexic on Craig’s List who’d trade their Card for a case of cigarettes and a couple of Diet Cokes. They’d pay extra for the cigarettes with vitamins. But now that they give cigarettes for free at Weight Watchers and Diet Coke is the only kind of Coke that’s out there, they have no value on the black market. It’s the Regular Coke that’s sky high now. A case of that would wipe out your MCard for a week, so they just quit selling it in the stores and use the underground networks where people will trade their gold fillings for it. The state-subsidized dentistry is the problem. It’s a free ride for Coke addicts to get more gold – the more Coke you drink, the more fillings you need. Most Coke addicts don’t even brush their teeth in order to speed up the decay. I’ve heard that bulimia is the best method, since the combo of stomach acid and sugar on teeth rots them faster than anything else. Alcoholism is effective, too, but your gums get so rotted your teeth actually fall out. And no teeth means no fillings and no gold, so you end up worse than you started.

Every once in a while you hear about someone selling black market M Cards out of one-hour motels. You have to catch them right at the beginning of the hour, because after that, the lines get so long that supplies run out. You have to know somebody to get the hookup on where the sellers will be, because now that the government monitors text messages, the secret locations are only passed by word of mouth. And I’m not even saying that I’m in the loop.

In fact, I think I’ve said enough already. I can’t afford to have my K-Cals docked like that time I ran a yellow light. You can bet I won’t make that mistake again. Is there a vending machine around here?

Posted in Jessica Setnick

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