Friday, January 29, 2010

"You're fat because you eat too much."

Do you find this image and message to be offensive? It's one of many illustrations inside of the book "Better Homes & Gardens Diet Book" published in 1955. What I've learned from reading my vintage source materials over the years is that it was socially acceptable to use the word "fat" to describe someone who was overweight, although not to the person directly since good manners and decorum was still in full force. In other words, in magazines and books, there were no references to "people of size." People were called "fat."

It may seem striking that the message above is placing responsibility for being overweight strictly on the individual. Medical conditions aside, today it seems that there are books, talk shows, articles and news stories about how the current obesity epidemic is due to many reasons other than we eat too much for our lifestyles and dietary needs. That kind of talk is very good for selling products that promise to take the place of willpower and the basic math of calories in versus calories burned. While it may seem mean and insensitive, the fact is that obesity wasn't the wide-spread problem that it is in 2010. It's hard not to consider the role that outward societal pressures and norms may have played in that equation.

23 comments:

  1. Shame can be a powerful tool. Don't those books and theories help people shift the accountability onto another person, food, abstract thing rather than their actions and behaviors?

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  2. Yes, shame can be a tool, or a weapon. I do think too many current books shift away responsibility for fixing the problem regardless of who or what is accountable.

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  3. HA! I LOVED that one. It's just so true.

    I might print that one and put it on the frig!

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  4. I didn't put it on my frig . . .

    I put it on my desktop screen. I look at that a WHOLE lot more LOL!

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  5. Maybe you can place it on both places! :)

    I love this image, too.

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  6. Really enjoyed reading this post! It is so true that so many of us today have given into the lie that we eat healthy or normal portions. I've been there, with many others, saying, "I'm exercising regularly, eating healthy, but not losing the weight." Once I started a program like weight watchers, I saw the weight come off... because I had to be accountable for every bite I put in mouth! I would say too, that a calorie is not a calorie no matter what - calories from fresh fruits and veggies are used more effectively than calories from what most of us in this society tend to eat: refined sugars and carbs (convenience foods). So for some, just counting calories may not be very effective either!

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  7. I just found your blog via the blog posted just about (losing weight after 45).

    The 1950s is when the proliferation of "ready-made" foods hit the shelves. Chef Boy r D, cake mixes, etc. All with near zero value as food. But at least at that time, we weren't a nation of fast food eaters and eating at restaurants for most meals. King sized portions served at nice restaurants made us adjust the normal portion size.

    My grandmother, as I observed in the early 70s and as practiced her whole married life, dished out the portion of food for her husband and likely her children too. No seconds. The quantity, I believe, depended on how much work they did during the day. It is interesting to note that her husband was well over 6' and probably weighed 155 (my father was 6'4" and his fighting weight in his pre-50s age was 155-160 with a lot of muscle). She raised 4 children. The boys got beer guts later (except my father). But she was always kind of heavy. I take after her in body build. I can't wait to read all the way through your blog. Sounds fascinating. I know I eat too much sugar (stress eating) and my mother is bulimic so I NEVER learned good eating habits.

    Thank you for challenging the norm!

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    1. Kimmie, thank you for reading and posting. Your story reminded me how my grandmother used to hide packaged cookies from my grandfather! She'd ask me if I wanted dessert and then, once the coast was clear, she would show me where in a closet they were hidden. :)

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  8. Back then...

    less toxins,

    less obesogenic chemicals

    no GMOs--now proven and studied to be linked to more obesity

    no MSGs--they use MSG to fatten rats up in the lab so why is our food being filled with this garbage?

    http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2011/10/msg-is-used-to-make-lab-rats-fat-how.html

    Lower levels of stress so lower cortisol.

    so forth and so on.

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    1. Yes, I avoid GMOs (which I've written about here), MSG and I have worked hard to reduce my stress levels (also covered in my blog). I have been researching and writing about obesogenic chemicals in my book, too. However, even if those things make our metabolisms less efficient, we still gain weight when we consume more calories than we burn.

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  9. I'm sorry and I don't mean to cause a fight when I say this, but this is wrong. Calling people "fat" shouldn't be acceptable. It's just plain rude, and when you call someone "bigger or people of size" that's not sugarcoating it-that's being respectful. My grandmother is obese and she lived in the 50's. Also, shame is not a good tool. Shame makes people feel bad and get depressed. The goal should be to eat healthy not to get "slim and trim." Now our society is obsessed with being thin. No wonder there are more eating disorders than there were in the 50's.

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  10. I found your blog by accident a few days ago while looking for decorating ideas and I love it! I've read all of your posts and can't wait for you book to be finished. I'm fat (modern 14/16, 5'4", and a large frame according to Met Life) because I eat too much and I accept that. I've never been shamed because of my size but I have been shamed by putting it so bluntly. I put on a little too much weight during my last pregnancy and a few months ago I started trying to lose it following a similar "diet" to what you are talking about. So far I've lost around 22lbs

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    1. Hello and thank you! Congratulations on both your weight loss and being able to be honest with yourself without it meaning self-hate but instead taking care of your health!

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  11. I saw this table cloth on Etsy and thought of you. If it were large enough to fit my table I would have gotten it.

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/151194222/vintage-tablecloth-fun-calorie-counting?ref=sr_gallery_3&ga_search_query=Jack+LaLanne&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all

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    1. Hi- yes, those are fun! I have a collection of calorie towels and hankies, but no tablecloths.

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  12. Eating too much is always the reason! Of course the reasons for eating too much are the other half of the weight equation. Some have more validity than others.

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  13. To Whomever this applies,

    So far, the general feel that I get from what I've read, and subsequent comments, is that being fat is caused by overeating. I'm cringing reading all of this because, as you alluded, the culture of dieting, and the dieting industry really took hold after the fifties. You yourself mentioned that while following traditional dieting methods, you simply found yourself gaining more weight. I wish this would be highlighted more on your blog and in your e-book instead of it just having a brief mention, even though it is a HUGE factor in all of this, essentially being glossed over and ignored in a general sense. Dieting does cause weight gain, just as you experienced. And, speaking for myself, and I'm sure many others who have struggled with their weight over the years, my weight had nothing to do with lack of control, will power, or eating too much, and it's frustrating hearing people still make this generalization. I would bet you anything that the people who are forever dieting, and trying to diet their weight down are among those who are the most determined and strong willed, yet they are condemned, even if indirectly, for not being responsible for themselves and their weight, when this is far from the truth.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/health/08fat.html?_r=4&sq=weight%20loss%20rockefeller%20university%20&st=cse&scp=3&pagewanted=all&

    Constant dieting wreaks havoc on the metabolism, which is why sooooooo many people who ARE responsible find that their weight creeps up despite their efforts, but sadly they don't realize that it's not their effort that's the problem, it's the stupid obsession in our culture with dieting that's a huge problem. It keeps people in a never ending cycle of dieting, which only feeds the diet industry; exactly what they want. They conveniently ignore the current warnings against dieting, and how dieting is a huge factor in people’s weight continuing to increase, along with diseases that can be directly linked to the act of dieting itself because of the never-ending stress that puts the body through. Nope, they just continue to encourage people to diet. Those warnings have been drowned out and ignored by the deafening voices of those in the diet industry, and the diet obsession of our culture.

    To be continued...

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  14. ...continued


    I, like many new moms, ignorantly believed that dieting to help get my body back to a "healthy" state was standard and safe. Well, dieting after each of my children’s births set me on that relentless catch 22 path. Dieting slowed my metabolism down...the path was set. I was forever battling to get back to my natural weight from that moment on, instead of allowing my body to recover on its own. It has only been, after 20 years of ignorantly battling my body, that I finally figured out that the endless battle that I was having with my weight was because I had screwed up my metabolism, not because I was lazy and/or irresponsible, and I know that is true for many women who struggle with their weight, who got stuck in the dieting trap. I'm now healing my metabolism, which does cause weight gain initially because of the initial lowered metabolism. Once the metabolism/body has the chance to repair itself, the body is capable of reaching its natural/healthy weight, which will be different for each person. My body is going through this process right now. I have reached the point of having a healed metabolism/body, and my weight is beginning to go down on its own without me dieting or doing any crazy, excessive exercising.

    Sorry for the 'essay'. I just really wanted to highlight this aspect of weight for those who feel unjustly shamed, real or imagined, based on the judgment of others simply because of how they look. Looks DO NOT always reveal what's "really going on" with a person's eating and movement habits, but sadly, judgment based on looks alone is all too common, as that dumb illustration at the top of this article demonstrates...it's just not true. If it were true, I wouldn’t be bothered by it.

    We have a dieting epidemic, not an obesity epidemic. If everyone would stop dieting, and allow their body to heal, you would see the "obesity epidemic" suddenly disappear.

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    1. Hi Emma, I like passionate people who have something to say. : ) I agree that there are crazy, counter-productive diets out there today. My solution is the 1950s diet which isn't about starvation or unhealthy eating. It as well as breaking my active addiction to junk food allowed my body to heal. It sounds like you have found what works for you. I know the above image is controversial, and I think having a respectful dialogue about it is very healthy. Thanks for commenting and reading my blog and book. I hope you have found some things from it that are helpful to you. : )

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