Saturday, 1 August 2009

Fatty slims

Interesting times in the debate around fatness. Due to Obama's proposed health reforms and debate about the costs of obesity, one of the many comments which caught my eye was something about-because fat people can't lose weight, they are saying it can't be done.

As usual, arguing a point that is not being made. Often unsaid in all this is that slim people are also 'fatter' than they used to be. If you don't believe me, ask a woman of a certain age say late 30's plus, or her male equivalent, who's been a size 8 (or equivalent) for at least 20 or even 15 years, and has stayed at that weight/size, if their size is the same as now.

If you listen to them, they'll tell you how hard it is to get clothes now compared to the relatively recent past. Increasingly some of them are falling off the lower end of sizing. Some question whether we are fatter or that much fatter than we used to be.

I can understand their scepticism, we should question everything about the crisis as a matter of course. As for me I don't doubt it, we are fatter. Though eyes can deceive to an extent we look fatter/ bigger and more robust. We are definitely taller. And though fashions have changed, more favour baggy clothes, I find it difficult to tell by looking what size people are, in a way I never did before.

It's as if we are more uniform in overall appearance. The sizes blend together in a way they didn't before. I suspect a major part of this is exercise culture it makes people look more alike.

Our underlying shape has changed too, over the last decade or more women seem to have added inches to our waists. I've never been sure how much of this is due to the abandonment of corsetry or girdles as their more elasticated latter versions were called. Girdles were like control pants but thicker and more controlling! I suspect they trained women's waists in and some of the thickening of waists is about the absence of that compression.

Then there are other factors such as better nutrition and even the effects of stress on women as expectations have changed from the past.

Of course bigger doesn't necessarily mean fatter as in fat but hey, I don't make the rules, weight is the defining measurement of BMI not ratio of fat cells.

There are more of the fattest people around, there are more fat people around, but also more slim people are closer to a BMI of 25 than ever before. Presumably some of that's ageing as weight tends toward an upward incline with age.

There is a point of view which says, fat people are fatter, but slim people are more or less the same. I would have thought that would leave a gap between fatter and slimmer.

Obviously, I'm mainly going by eye, and I'm aware that that has to be treated with caution. But I know that the skinny people I used to see quite regularly when I was a child, are rarely if ever to be found, today. It's as if the conditions that made them have gone, as we've gotten healthier.

Kate Harding's blog did an interesting project using pictures of various people from all the BMI categories and what they actually looked like. The focus was on plump and fat people, how we couldn't tell by sight who had a BMI of 25 or 30 plus. That tacitly makes the point that if slim people looked more distinct then,  you'd by default be able to tell more easily what a BMI of 25 plus looked like.

Clearly, the overweight categorization has the biggest has also grown, it probably contains a lot of slim people who just don't "weigh" slim. Some people look slim at BMI 30, some look plump or even fat below that.

In the end, if dieting exercise and all that was so good merely requiring discipline, who's supposed to be more "disciplined" in this scenario than than slim people? Surely they'd be all be getting a bit thinner (they've got a little room) and the ranks of the "overweight" would have *thinned out too.

* Weight based pun alert.

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