Obesity and Naturalness

High profile anti-obesity activist Meme Roth writes on her blog: “Let’s finally recognize obesity as abuse—abuse of our children, abuse of ourselves—and together take action.” Roth has recently trademarked the term “second-hand obesity”, playing on “second-hand smoke.” She writes that second-hand obesity is passed along from parent to child and from citizen to citizen. Roth makes numerous television appearances every year and continually underlines the association of fat with sickness, death, and unnaturalness.

New research by Dr. Arya Sharma is beginning to break the elision of fat and sickness with his new research:

“The back-to-back studies come as more evidence emerges that a significant proportion of overweight people are metabolically healthy and that the risks associated with obesity do not make for a one-size-fits-all formula.” More can be found here: http://www.canada.com/health/Heavy+healthy+formula+slims+down+definition+dangerously+obese/5257089/story.html

If the risks associated with obesity are less dramatic than once believed, then what is feeding this culture of obesity panic that aims to “blast away fat” and “burn belly fat” away in 10 days or less?

What surprises me about much of the writing on obesity, like Roth’s and Richard Carmona, the Surgeon general of the United States who compared the obesity epidemic to terrorism, is that Continue reading

Martin family argues for legal funding at fatality inquiry

An article posted to the St. Albert Gazette explains how the family of a 13-year old foster child, who died shortly after leaving foster care, is seeking funding and payments for a lawyer to represent them in an inquiry into her death. The inquiry is meant to shed light on the girl’s death, with the aim of preventing further foster-care related injury or death.

Samantha Martin died in December 2006 after collapsing from an apparent heart attack. The inquiry is supposed to determine what caused the girl’s cardiac arrest.

Martin lived in foster care for most of her life; she was born with a rare chromosomal disorder and the government insisted the Martin family place her there to receive the necessary medical supports.

Read more here.

Conference: Health, Embodiment, and Visual Culture

CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Conference: “Health, Embodiment, and Visual Culture: Engaging Publics and Pedagogies”

November 19-20, 2010
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Conference Co-Chairs:
Sarah Brophy, Associate Professor, Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Janice Hladki, Associate Professor, School of the Arts, McMaster University

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: January 15, 2010

CONFERENCE DESCRIPTION:
This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore how visual cultural practices image and imagine unruly bodies and, in so doing, respond to Patricia Zimmermann’s call for “radical media democracies that animate contentious public spheres” (2000, p. xx). Our aim is to explore how health, disability, and the body are theorized, materialized, and politicized in forms of visual culture including photography, video art, graphic memoir, film, body art and performance, and digital media. Accordingly, we invite proposals for individual papers and roundtables that consider how contemporary visual culture makes bodies political in ways that matter for the future of democracy. Proposals may draw on fields such as: visual culture, critical theory, disability studies, health studies, science studies, autobiography studies, indigenous studies, feminisms, queer studies, and globalization/transnationalism. Continue reading

Ventilator rationing guideline

A guideline is being prepared by US health care officials to decide whose ventilators will be disconnected in case of swine flu pandemic. It is based on what is called the New York protocol, which “calls for hospitals to withhold ventilators from patients with serious chronic conditions such as kidney failure, cancers that have spread and have a poor prognosis, or ‘severe, irreversible neurological’ conditions that are likely to be deadly.”

Dr. Carl Schultz at the University of California at Irvine says, “The problem with lowering the standard of care is where do you stop? How low do you go? If you don’t want to put any more resources in disaster response, you keep lowering the standard.”

Read the ProPublica story below for details.

http://www.propublica.org/article/flu-nightmare-officials-ponder-disconnecting-ventilators-from-some-pat-923

Wii Fit: what videogames can teach us

Feminist Philosophers today features a post on Wii Fit, a game that incorporates weight loss goals in the family-friendly format of a Nintendo game. It uses a BMI to tell you how far away from normal you are, an then has you set goals to get back in to the normal range. This game is marketed to the whole family, including children. See, for example, the game demo website, where we see a man, woman, girl and boy who each demonstrate for us what different types of activities we can perform with Wii Fit. Note the correlation between the  exercise being modeled and the person used to model it. Mom does yoga, dad does strength training, boy does balance games, ten year old girl does aerobics. Yes, aerobics. Why does a little girl need to do aerobics? Click on her and she tells you (big smile on her face)  “If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is running a little high,  you may want to go for a session of Aerobics… to help tone your body.”  Of course, BMI’s don’t work on children, and although there’s a very faint disclaimer to this effect, the game producers clearly expect little girls to track and strive to change their BMI- this is, after all, the point of the game. Even better, the game lets you chart your progress against your friends and family, so it turns into a veritable weight loss competition!

<insert face-palm here>

Can we ditch the fatty anorexics but save our own stupid selves?

Support For People With Eating Disorders - Anorexi Bulimi Kontakt

Support For People With Eating Disorders - Anorexi Bulimi Kontakt CLICK TO SEE VIDEO

Bloggingheads.tv threw up an interesting piece last week that begins with a discussion surrounding obesity (The entire segment is titled “The Skinny on Obesity“, but note in advance that the conversation is less focused than the title implies; they switch topics and discuss carbon emission regulations for the last half). I was struck by a number of the claims that were made throughout this discussion and most particularly by the way that later comments contrasted with earlier ones. It is in this contrast, especially given the subject matter, that I believe there is a valuable lesson regarding how we should view answers to the question “What sorts of people should there be?” Continue reading

Body Worlds — A Visitor’s Tale

Body Worlds 1 banner

I enjoyed my visit to Body Worlds 1 at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton thoroughly.  The whole experience was exciting and interesting.  A comment made by my girlfriend when we talked about the exhibit a few hours later over dinner captured an experience that I think many people will share–“I went in looking forward to being at least a little offended, but I spent the whole time being amazed!”  It was only a day or so later that a point of contention even crept into my mind.

Continue reading