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By William J. Fabrey

From Radiance Winter 2000

Now that the millennium is upon us, I have to confess that for better or for worse, I haven’t taken the dire predictions all that seriously. Too many companies are trying to cash in on the fears of people who believe that lots of computers to which we owe our way of living will all crash from the Y2K flaw on New Year’s Eve (not to mention the concerns of those who earnestly believe that we are all living a sinful way of life and will be punished). As an official optimist, I usually agree with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the late president, not the parkway) that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

hich leads me to the millennium and size acceptance. We have come too far in the past thirty-plus years to waste time wringing our hands about the fact that we should have been doing more for fat rights. Yes, we still need to do more. But let’s take a few moments as we begin the year 2000 to celebrate some milestones. For example, a small band of stalwarts got the NAAFA organization (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) going in June 1969. (It survives to this day!) The Fat Underground (of Los Angeles) was born shortly afterward. It didn’t survive, but its writings did. Both organizations strongly influenced what was to become the size-acceptance movement.

NAAFA held the first size-positive runway fashion show in 1972 and the first plus-size and supersize pool party, where some pioneering fat women and men put on bathing suits at a convention in Crystal City, Virginia, in 1977. After that, no NAAFA convention has ever been without one or two pool parties.

The founding of BBW magazine in 1978 and of Radiance in 1984 infused new life into the movement. Both magazines are still published—and not because the streets of Fat City are paved with gold (far from it!). They continue thanks to the pluck and stubborn determination of their editors and readers, who insist that they must continue!

oday, as our calendars display the year 2000, you can read new books and magazines and visit amazing web sites all over the world that celebrate all aspects of size acceptance: plus-size and supersize fashion, fat rights, size-friendly medical researchers, fat sexuality, medical care that attempts to optimize health instead of focus on weight, self-esteem, big kids, and so much more. You can even find mail-order catalogs and TV and print ads showing plus-size and supersize models.

We (and our descendants) have a lot more work to do before the calendar turns to 3000—or even 2001. You don’t have to be a psychic to figure out that by the year 3000, weight is unlikely to be the obsession it is today. Whatever lies ahead for humankind, body size is certainly not one of the biggest challenges we face—and never really has been. But you and I had the excitement of being there in the beginning, when, late in the twentieth century, some forward-thinking folks discovered that weight per se is mostly a non issue. Mental, physical, and spiritual health are the real issues.

The News

One of the cover stories in the July 1999 McCall’s magazine asked, "Is thin really healthier?—A must-read report." The piece, daringly titled "Big Is Beautiful," told the stories of three women who have given up the battle to lose weight. I was tickled to see that the author was McCall’s contributing editor Sherry Sulb Cohen, who has done some great writing about NAAFA in the past and is as size-positive as they come.

Ms. Cohen, who wrote the size-friendly book Making It Big way back in 1979, now believes that public attitudes are shifting. She writes, "Lately a number of large-size women are saying ‘enough with hating myself because I’m fat, enough with courting eating disorders like anorexia because I’m not an Ally McBeal size 2, enough with feeling like a diseased minority when 97 million adult Americans are classified as overweight or obese.’ These women finally get it: If shame or dieting worked, there wouldn’t be a fat woman left in the country." Amen.

One woman highlighted in the article, Victoria Koutavas, had been persuaded by the self-acceptance arguments of her old college friend Cheri Erdman, Ed.D., author of the books Live Large and Nothing to Lose. People’s lives can be touched by our written and spoken words, if the message is powerful enough!

ow, it’s difficult for me to publicly admit to reading supermarket tabloids, but the July 20, 1999, issue of the Globe did catch my eye. The Globe’s cover story on Cher’s 200-pound lesbian daughter turned out to be downright silly. But in the same issue, the fashion writer Mr. Blackwell (known for his best-dressed and worst-dressed lists of the rich and famous) had wonderful things to say about Camryn Manheim.

Blackwell used to be fat phobic, and, for all I know, he still is, but he didn’t show that side of himself this time. In the article "Best and Worst Dressed Stars," Blackwell hurled words of praise or nasty remarks at various female celebrities. About Camryn Manheim pictured in a bright red outfit, Blackwell wrote, "Red rules! The Practice lawyer makes a great case for plus-size women wearing bright colors. Her skirt, top, and shawl are bold and beautiful."

Because of Camryn, I couldn’t resist adding the Globe to my grocery purchases, and then was doubly rewarded because that issue also ran a nice piece about singer Aretha Franklin. Franklin, whose weight fluctuates, is shown standing alongside her date and wearing a flashy gold outfit. The Queen of Soul tells readers, "I have a lot of self-esteem . . . if a man doesn’t treat you with respect, dump him!" Because the article tells about Franklin’s active social life, it is likely that some readers learned something they should know already: large women can date.

On July 11, 1999, Ann Landers’s syndicated advice column devoted its entire space to the problems encountered by fat people on airplanes. Responding to a letter from an angry man who said that fat people should be weighed at the ticket counter and forced to buy two seats if they weighed more than 300 pounds, Ann Landers scolded him for his "mean-spiritedness and lack of compassion." She went on to print six other letters, most of which told of discrimination and "fit" problems. One fat writer asked, "What is ‘normal’ size? My size is normal for me!" Hooray for Ann! Sensitizing her to the problems of large people was a long-term project of NAAFA for many years. Until ten or fifteen years ago, she hadn’t a clue on this topic. As a long-revered problem-solver and voice of conscience for millions of U.S. readers, her progress is our progress!

erhaps the airlines should take a hint from Washington State Ferries, which operates a boat between Vashon Island and Seattle. According to Chuck Shepherd’s "News of the Weird" column in the June issue of Funny Times, the company decreased the total number of people allowed per trip from 250 down to 230 to make more room for large passengers. Despite criticism from some travelers who had been among those left behind, the spokesperson for the company, Susan Harris-Heuther, explained that the boats’ former limit of 250 passengers, in effect for the past fifty years, was based on the bench capacity formula of eighteen inches per person. "It’s just not realistic," she said. "We have all expanded and eighteen-inch butts are a thing of the past."

Increasing "butt space" from 18 to 19.6 inches (as the ferry did) seems an admirable goal. Very few airlines allow that kind of room for their coach seats. In fact, they don’t even use the commonly followed "18-inch rule," which was based on a 1950s Harvard study of passenger trains in New England, according to an article that appeared August 2, 1999, in the Hartford Courant. The piece, titled "The Posterior Motive," explains the Harvard study conclusion that 18-inch-wide seating would accommodate most of those in the United States. It was encouraging to read in the same article that a new arena being built in Hartford, the Bushnell Annex, will feature seats 19 to 24 inches wide. The present Bushnell Arena seats range from only 16 to 18 inches wide. Architects who design public spaces are beginning to realize that there are many of us who need larger seating. Some theaters and other spaces are beginning to install some bench-style seating that imposes no size limit on patrons.

Speaking of butts, on July 18, 1999, writer Carolyn Hax proposed, "Get Your Mind Off Your Butt" in her Washington Post column, "Tell Me about It." Hax urged readers to think and talk less about dieting and size, and go out and be active in life. She illustrated her position with a letter from a worried husband who was tired of his wife’s dieting and lack of self-esteem, and she suggested various ways that the husband might go about improving his wife’s attitude toward herself.

My friend and news source Harry Gossett wrote to Ms. Hax that "trying to lose pounds is the most perfect way to replace all your joy with misery." But he also pointed out that a loving spouse can do only so much to change a partner’s attitude toward his or her body. Sad but true.

BBW magazine appeared in a new format and with a new publisher in June 1999, and featured a cover story about TV’s Star Jones, the midsize cohost of the ABC show The View. The piece was written by new BBW editor and former NAAFA executive director Sally E. Smith.

cannot stress too much that there is room for a wide variety of magazines, e-’zine web sites, organizations, clubs, books, mail-order catalogs, web-based businesses, and so on, celebrating the large figure. You can enjoy eating apples, oranges, and pears without saying that one is better than another! Most fat people know about only a small fraction of the resources available to them. More and more diverse size-related media and activities mean more information, choices, and, ultimately, more power for those in the movement and for those individuals striving to enrich their own large lives.

Most web sites catering to large people provide "links," which, with the click of a mouse, can land you in other useful sites. One good site is managed by an outfit called the BBW/BHM/FA Organization. Start by visiting its main site at www.bbwfa.com;  they say they list and link to more than 2500 confirmed, genuinely active, size-related web sites. Health professionals and others interested in healthy-weight issues should tap into the "Health at Any Size" web ring, managed by Debby Burgard, Ph.D. That site is at www.BodyPositive.com.

Let’s talk about show business. Stand-up comedian Margaret Cho’s one-woman show (in New York’s Westbeth Theater Center), titled I’m the One That I Want earned a good review on July 12, 1999, when Anita Gates of the New York Times called the show "witty and eminently likable." Ms. Cho starred in the 1994–95 ABC-TV series All-American Girl, the first series to depict an Asian-American family. Because the show’s producers thought Cho’s face was too round, she went on a severe diet, lost thirty pounds, and suffered kidney failure. Her anger regarding this experience finds a strong place in Cho’s current play.

ctress Dael Oriandersmith’s interview in the New York Times on May 19, 1999, discusses her one-woman play The Gimmick, which ran at the New York Theater Workshop through this past spring. A black woman of size, as a girl Oriandersmith was teased by her peers while growing up in the inner city, because she was a "large, book-loving girl, and different." On stage, she vents anger about this experience, and also portrays herself as a young woman "self-conscious about her large size walking into a clothing store and finding nothing on the racks." I’m sure many in her audience could relate to that experience!

Years ago, film actress Anita Ekberg was thought of as a sex goddess in the Marilyn Monroe tradition. More recently, her few roles have been limited to those stereotypes of the older large woman. In her latest film, The Red Dwarf (in French with English subtitles), Ekberg plays a fading opera diva. On June 18, 1999, New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden, who in the past has frequently been unkind to large actors, found many faults in the film, but, other than referring to Ekberg as "mountainous," found nothing wrong with her performance!

The column "Public Lives" by James Barron with Linda Lee (New York Times, June 30, 1999) described Camryn Manheim’s recent newsworthiness. It discussed the awards she has received for her role as a lawyer on the TV show The Practice, the publicity for her book Wake Up, I’m Fat! and, in a less glamorous vein, Manheim’s involvement in a restaurant brawl when patrons harassed her dinner companion, Monica S. Lewinsky. Just hope Camryn’s chemistry rubs off on Ms. Lewinsky, who admitted to Barbara Walters on national TV that she is self-conscious about, among other things, her weight.

amryn was interviewed just prior to her debut as a runway model for Lane Bryant’s Venezia collection at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on June 29, 1999, where she wore clothes she had helped to design. "When I got on television and people wanted to put me in beautiful clothes, I didn’t even know how to wear them," Manheim said. "There’s a way you strut down the runway, [just as] there’s a way you walk through your life that you have to learn."

It’s a victory for us in the size- acceptance movement that Lane Bryant (the chain of stores) now understands the need for large models. Too bad that Lane Bryant, the mail-order catalog, owned by Brylane Corp., a different company, hasn’t seen the light. They should take a hard look at their competition, such as Plus Woman (800-628-5525, 828-628-3562, or www.pluswoman.com),  to name one of a growing list of great mail-order catalogs. All their models are either midsize or supersize. When I called Laura Adams, owner of the company that puts out the catalog, she told me that she gets a lot of praise from women happy to see models their own size.

Brylane Corp., which also puts out the Roaman’s catalog, various plus-size catalogs for Sears, and King-Size for men, has insisted for years that focus groups say the majority of large women want to see smaller models—that they prefer fantasy to reality. Peter Calzone, CEO for Brylane (who has never been a fat woman himself), said as much in the Wall Street Journal on May 3, 1999. Well, he could be partly right. Just as there are readers of Mode magazine who might not be caught dead reading BBW or Radiance due to the presence of much larger women within their pages, so too there may be millions of large women with low self-esteem who prefer the fantasy of clothes shown on slender models. I guess those women won’t be shopping at Plus Woman anytime soon, but everyone else should check it out!

There is a possibility, however, that activists should not be so charitable toward companies such as Brylane. A blistering editorial by Carol Johnson of the Largely Positive organization in the Summer 1999 issue of its excellent newsletter, On a Positive Note, pointed out that the media say they only put images in people’s faces that people want to see. But, Johnson said, "At some point, someone has to [take responsibility] for making young girls feel that their lives depend" on being thin. Ms. Johnson, whose writings are usually more upbeat, was exasperated that no one will shoulder any of the blame for low self-esteem and eating disorders in women, and she had a good point. (Largely Positive, which has affiliated support groups in a number of cities, can be reached at P.O. Box 17233, Glendale, WI 53217; phone: 414-299-9295; e-mail: positive@execpc.com.  Subscriptions are $12/year.)

ccording to a recent study at the University of Toronto (http://www.utoronto.ca),  thin models in ads cause anger and depression in women. Dr. Leora Pinhas, a lecturer in the university’s Department of Psychiatry and director of the Eating Disorders Treatment Program at York County Hospital, conducted the study. Researchers asked 118 female university students about their mood, body satisfaction, and eating patterns one week before and immediately after the young women viewed twenty images. Half the group viewed images showing the "ideal" women portrayed in popular women’s magazine ads, and the other half viewed images with no people in them. The first group responded with hostility and depression after viewing the ads.

The study was published in the March 1999 issue of International Journal of Eating Disorders. Dr. Pinhas says that she would be "hard-pressed to find a young woman who felt good about her body, never dieted, and ate normally" and that Western culture needs to rethink how it portrays the female body. But the question is, who, exactly, should do that rethinking?

Apparently, advertisers such as Mr. Calzone of Brylane Corp. feel that their only responsibility is to the stockholders, to maximize sales and thereby the return on their investment. However, the lack of attractive large female images in the media (including mail-order catalogs) may well play a role in the body image of children. When does a corporation’s responsibility to the public good begin? Do the need for profits outweigh all other considerations? What do you think about Brylane’s position on the size of the models in their catalogs?

story on May 27, 1999, in the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the new phenomenon of crash dieting in Fiji. Now that young women in Fiji have been exposed to shows such as Melrose Place, they’ve begun starving themselves to the point of becoming seriously "underweight"—all in an effort to fit the images they are seeing on U.S. imported TV. Don’t even try to tell me that the media don’t influence how young people feel about their bodies!

Two Fat Ladies, a cooking show created by Britain’s BBC and syndicated to ten countries, including the United States, made fun of mainstream ideas of how our bodies should look and what we should eat. It was famous for its two "loud, funny, and unashamedly corpulent" stars, Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright (Yahoo! News on August 11, 1999). The pair wrote four cookbooks, and they were famous for their irreverent attitude about calories, cholesterol, and weight—and for road trips in their motorcycle and sidecar.

We will miss Jennifer Paterson, who died on August 10, not of clogged arteries, but of lung cancer. The coverage I saw of her death by Yahoo!, the New York Times, and CNN television was respectful. Although reporters pointed out that Ms. Paterson was a heavy smoker, none attempted to blame her weight or her politically incorrect diet.

I was totally thrilled to open my New York Times on July 29, 1999, and see one-third of a page devoted to the NAAFA convention in Framingham, Massachusetts, which was held from July 27 through August 1. The article was in the "hard news" section of the paper, and it discussed the convention with respect and made it sound exciting.

The article was headlined "‘People of Size’ Gather to Promote Fat Acceptance—Group Celebrates the Idea of Liberation" and included a large photo of three supersize female NAAFAns (insiders know them as the "fattrio" who sometimes dress alike to show solidarity. The convention was attended by around five hundred people, and participants provided the New York Times with a number of outstanding quotes. Bettye Travis, NAAFA president, described fat people as "one of the last marginal groups that . . . it’s still okay to make fun of." I’m glad that she said "one of the last," because we are not the only such group remaining! Too many activists forget that others are targeted for abuse as well.

The outrageous and quotable 270-pound Marilyn Wann, author of Fat! So? (Ten Speed Press, 1998), was interviewed after attending a NAAFA pool party in a thong bikini. According to New York Times reporter Carey Goldberg, Ms. Wann regards such a garment as a political statement. "Ultimately, the thing we have to do is, like drag queens, make it funky to be a rebel. I’m sorry, but Madonna has nothing on me as a rebel," Wann said. "Madonna in a thong, me in a thong—which one is more challenging to the status quo?"

uring two days (July 30 and 31) of the NAAFA convention, another major event was held in Philadelphia. Promoted as a "BBW Bash," hundreds of people, mostly Internet chat-room types, attended. Again, this illustrates that there is something for everyone. But lots of East Coast people wished that the NAAFA organization and the BBW Bash people would have have coordinated their schedules so people could have attended both events.

Now, let’s grapple with all the health-related news that has come in. After the new Hoffmann-LaRoche drug Xenical was approved on April 26, 1999, by the FDA, the promotions began. Hoffmann-LaRoche even devised a computer program on which potential consumers could view before-and-after images of themselves! They could also see how they might look if they never took the drug and gained weight. Can there be any doubt that these drugs are not being promoted to improve the health of fat people? They are being promoted to "improve" your appearance. I received an unsolicited e-mail from an outfit called World Wide Medicine that made it clear that no doctor office visit or prior prescription was needed to order Xenical over the Internet. It did say that a $75 "consultation fee" might be required (telephone or e-mail consultations is how such companies give customers who have not seen a doctor the prescription legally required for Xenical). This is reach for people’s wallets; this is a blatant lack of ethics.

How truly complicated drug treatments for obesity can be was evident from the June 21, 1999, issue of Chemical and Engineering News, a magazine of the pharmaceutical industry sent to me by reader Kristina Danowski. The cover showed a fat rat, and the headline read, "Obesity-Research Opens New Avenues for Treatment." As you might expect, the article’s focus was how the brain and biochemistry may have the final say about what we weigh. A chart listed seventeen areas of current research on weight-control drugs. The best quote in the article was its very last sentence: "There’s a lot of basic work that has to be done." This was Dr. Michael J. Kuhar, a professor of neuropharmacology at Emory University, who knows that such work should keep their labs busy for many, many years.

Herbal weight-loss formulas containing ephedra are often promoted as substitutes for the diet drug combination fen-phen that was outlawed two years ago. The FDA says that the herb currently used in this way, ma huang, is dangerous for some people (it is a cardiac stimulant) and proposed restrictions on its sale. But Metabolife International and other ephedra distributors lobbied the U.S. Congress to investigate the FDA’s proposal, and the House Science Committee in Congress asked the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO), which serves partly as a "watchdog" agency overseeing other agencies, to look into the question. On August 4, CNN reported that the GAO had determined that the FDA acted with too much haste and must "provide better evidence to support the proposed restrictions."

he GAO’s decision is considered by some to be a victory for those who want the right to decide what dietary supplements they wish to take. For example, the herb in question is taken in small quantities for the relief of asthma and other respiratory disorders. Ma huang is almost always combined with other herbs, for example, one to modify any potential effect on heart rate. Practitioners of Chinese medicine consider taking ma huang in large doses or in formulations to achieve weight loss or a speedy buzz an abuse of the herb.

University of Arkansas pharmacologist Bill Gurley is worried that those who take ephedra products for long periods, or in excessive amounts, could be harmed. His research found that the amount of ephedra varied considerably from product to product, or even within the same brand. Gurley said, "If a conventional pharmaceutical company had this kind of quality control, the FDA would shut them down."

On August 7, 1999, the New York Times reported the first jury verdict, in Texas, against the pharmaceutical giant American Home Products and its subsidiary, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, which manufactured and marketed fenfluramineanddexfenfluramine (Fondimin and Redux) and then withdrew the drugs in September 1997, after the FDA asked them to do so voluntarily. The Texas jury awarded $23.3 million to a woman who suffered severe heart valve damage. The woman already had some heart problems before taking the drugs, but the jury appears to have accepted the argument that even if the drugs could not be blamed for all of the damage, the company was negligent to not warn her and her physician of potentially dangerous side effects. Of the $23.3 million, $20 million were for punitive damages and $3.3 million were to compensate her for actual costs, loss of life expectancy, and so on. The New York Times reported that similar lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of the fen-phen drugs have grown to more than ten thousand in number, not counting a huge class-action suit filed in New Jersey.

One of the most shocking revelations about Wyeth-Ayerst is that their marketing effort included employing another company to "help" well-known obesity researchers write and edit journal articles about the manufactured drugs. According to an article on May 23, 1999, in the Dallas Morning News (the Associated Press picked up the story on May 24), which reviewed all the trial testimony in the Texas case, Wyeth-Ayerst hired Excerpta Medica, a division of Reed Elsevier PLC, to write ten articles promoting obesity treatment and creating market demand for Redux and paid $20,000 for each article. Excerpta, in turn, hired well-known university researchers to edit drafts and lend their names to the final work in exchange for $1000 to $1500 honoraria.

Excerpta did not inform some of its recruited researchers of Wyeth-Ayerst’s involvement. Wyeth’s behind-the-scenes editing included a request that Excerpta delete the following negative sentence from one paper: "Individual case reports also suggest a link between dexfenfluramine and primary pulmonary hypertension. It is not known whether Wyeth’s requested deletion was made—the article was among those that never appeared."

Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said that "the whole process strikes me as egregious—the fact that Wyeth commissioned someone to write pieces that are favorable to them, the fact that they paid people to put their names on these things, the fact that people were willing to put their names on it, the fact that the journals published them without asking questions."

ecause the drugs were pulled off the market when they were, some journal articles were withdrawn before being published. Researchers involved in writing the papers (but apparently not aware of Wyeth-Ayerst’s role in "helping" to write the articles) included Dr. Albert J. Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Richard L. Atkinson of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of St. Luke’s- Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, and Dr. Thomas A. Wadden of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Stunkard had no objection to being paid for his article, but says that he did not know that the money came from Wyeth-Ayerst and that he was uncomfortable about learning this fact. Drs. Atkinson and Pi-Sunyer were not available for interview due to traveling. Dr. Wadden returned his honorarium when he learned that his article would be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Wadden, who formerly was a Wyeth-Ayerst consultant, stated that it would not be appropriate to accept the honorarium, as it "creates too great a potential for a conflict of interest." Peer-reviewed journals require that researchers disclose research funding and thus any direct or indirect financial conflicts. In the two articles that were actually published, one by Stunkard and one by Pi-Sunyer, respectively, neither offered such disclosure.

Well, you really can learn a lot about how things work if you "follow the money trail." More details on this case are available at www.dallasnews.com/business/0523biz10journals.htm.

There is now a National Weight Control Registry that is "keeping tabs on more than 2500 people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least one year," according to the New York Times on June 8, 1999. The idea is to find out what those people who can keep the weight off after a diet do differently from all the others. Actually, I think that may be a good idea.

Both study directors, Dr. James O. Hill of the University of Colorado and Dr. Rena Wing of the University of Pittsburgh and the Brown University School of Medicine, say that so far, the "successful" registry participants don’t seem to be that different from the others. Most had tried to lose weight before, but failed. Most combined a low-fat diet with a high level of physical activity. (Of course, Dr. Robert C. Atkins would probably scoff at this diet, and ask whether they will be able to keep up their diets and physical activity for much longer.) The registry seeks more volunteers and can be reached at 800-606-6927 or at Registry@MSX.UPMC.edu.

high-reducing creams are coming in for some more criticism. Dr. Bonita Marks, assistant professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they take their sports medicine seriously (trust me!), presented a report on thigh cream in June at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle. On June 15, 1999, the New York Times quoted Dr. Marks as saying that "not only did we find no difference in each volunteer’s thighs at the end, but the volunteers themselves said they could see and feel no difference either." The article also quotes the owner of Alchemy Health and Beauty Products in Las Vegas, who sells $17 million worth of thigh cream each year. Four ounces of the cream goes for $19.95 (a magic number to those who determine selling prices). Colleen Peters, owner of Alchemy Health, claims, "I personally tried it and lost half an inch in the thigh area."

I could quickly and easily lose a half-inch from my thigh area just by pulling the money out of my trousers pocket to pay Alchemy Health for their nostrum. Alchemy, indeed! And why, pray tell, would anyone want to take a half-inch off a perfectly good thigh? And if your thighs measure, say, twenty-eight inches or more, would a half-inch really make any difference? And what about studies that show that fat on your thighs is the best place to have it, from a medical standpoint? Oops, I forgot that thigh cream is not bought by those who are attempting to lose weight for medical reasons, so the argument would probably not dissuade even one customer from using it.

In the August 1999 edition of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., created a stir with his article titled "Thinness and weight loss: beneficial or detrimental to longevity?" Although many health professionals take it for granted that a fat person is doomed to poor health, Dr. Gaesser, an exercise physiologist who wrote the book Big Fat Lies, is an eloquent spokesperson for the opposing point of view. According to Gaesser, no existing study truly equates obesity and poor health. The Associated Press did a story on Gaesser’s article on August 16, 1999, and ABC World News Tonight interviewed Gaesser for a segment that aired on August 16, 1999, also.

I picked up a copy of the May 25, 1999, issue of the Science Times, a weekly section of the New York Times that shouldn’t be missed by science buffs, and found that nearly the entire issue was devoted to weight. In "New Look at Dieting: Fat Can Be a Friend," prodiet writer Jane Brody expostulates that fear of dietary fat has backfired and made everyone gain weight in the long run. Another piece, also by Jane Brody, analyzed the popularity and the risks of the regimen promoted by Dr. Robert C. Atkins. Titled "Doubts Fail to Deter ‘The Diet Revolution,’" Brody came down pretty hard against the diet, but Atkins got the chance to rebut in a letter to the editor on June 1, 1999.

Another article, "95 Percent Regain Lost Weight. Or Do They?" challenged the notion that most people cannot lose weight permanently. Various experts were quoted as saying that the 95 percent figure has become part of the mythology about obesity, but is not well founded in fact. Those interviewed made some good points. Still, for the average fat person, sustained weight loss, although not impossible, is not likely. Whether the figure is 95 percent or 90 percent or 85 percent, the important point is that what most people currently do to themselves to lose weight is counterproductive. Is it a good idea to learn more about why people regain weight after it is lost? Sure. Should we hold out false hope for those who want to be thin at any price? Absolutely not!

"History Counsels Caution on Diet Pills," in the same issue of the Science Times, will not be read or taken seriously by enough people, but I hope some will. Another piece had to do with weight loss and exercise opportunities on the Internet. That’s right, just by typing and moving the mouse, you can lose weight. No, you also have to work out and diet, but you can get advice on-line from a qualified "personal trainer"—almost a no-frills version of what Oprah Winfrey has. One such program costs $20 a month. Apparently, lots of them are available, and New York Times writer Marion Roach had a very good experience with one.

myself got lots of valuable exercise just preparing this column: continually jumping out of my chair and running around the room looking at various piles of clippings and printouts, lugging a heavy valise full of folders and newspapers between cars and buses, nervously backing up my disk drive again and again. Thanks for news tips this issue go to, in addition to those people already mentioned, Miriam Berg, Lorrie Crisci, Pat Lyons, Lynn McAfee, Jenny Masché, and Neil Osbourn. ©

WILLIAM J. FABREY helps run Amplestuff, a mail-order company. He founded NAAFA in 1969, and has been a director of the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination since 1990. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 116, Bearsville, NY 12409, or at billfabrey@aol.com.

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