Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fatness I

A few days ago Dick Cavett wrote a column in the New York Times about how disturbed he was that fat people were showing up in commercials. After all, we know it is not ok to be fat.

Now, Dick Cavett is a slender fined boned little man who I doubt has ever had to think twice about how many calories he was eating. He thinks that fatness is primarily due to failure on the part of the fat person.

Undoubtably SOME of that is true. I know fat people who consistantly choose fattening foods. I know many more who read every label and do their best to cut out "bad" foods and to try to exercise. Some of the problem is probably genetic, another good chunk environmental, as we get fatter as a society over time. A prevailing theory at the moment is that we each have a natural weight range, and the environment factors push us one way or another within that range, but that gaining to be above your normal range or losing to be below it is incredibly difficult. There is data to support this.

All in all I was quite annoyed by the Cavett column because it showed the predjudices of the never-fat (or only fat breifly ever) against those that have a weight problem. And, as everyone who HAS a weight problem knows, fat people are NOT ok with their fatness.

So, I wrote a response, along with hundreds of others. Most of the others boiled down to 1) Thankyou for saying that! Those fat people are just pigs and need to learn to get up and walk and stop lifting only their forks, or 2) How dare you say that! Fat people have enough problems without that kind of nastiness.

This was my response:

There is a huge problem with advertising. Advertising is often aimed at making people want what they don’t need, and pushing psychological buttons to convince the viewer that they will be more cool, more sexy if they have some product or another. Part of the message is to tell us what we should want to be like. So we tell people, women in particular I think, that they need to look a certain way, leading to unnecessary self-loathing because we don’t look “perfect” enough and even worse, we damage our planet through rapacious consumerism.

Yes obesity is a problem, and can lead to specific health problems. Anorexia is also a problem. Cosmetic surgery can cause health problems or even death as well. I knew a women who was not terribly overweight, had lap band surgery and died from complications. Yes Americans are getting fatter. Fortunately we are also smoking less and cancer rates have been going down. It seems to me that over the decades more and more of us are becoming conscious of what may or may not be healthy.

In my family, most of the women are overweight. We also tend to live long lives. For whatever reason we are not plagued by type II diabetes or much heart disease. I have seen pictures of great-great grand mothers who were stout little women. Me? I am a bit of a gym addict, I spend roughly 10 hours a week at the gym. I take spinning classes, lift weights, and do Pilates. I am stronger and have more endurance than the majority of kids at my gym, and they are less than half my age. I eat no fried food, and avoid simple sugars. Currently I am keeping my calorie intake under 1,000 calories a day and I am losing a little, just a little bit of weight. I am almost 50, female, 5’5” and weigh 180 lbs. I am fat. And yes, not all of us who are fat won’t exercise, or only eat greasy, or sugar laden junk food. Fat people do not like being fat. A few chunky people in a commercial are not going to make us feel better about how we look. Do not worry. We are full of loathing for our fatness. At least I feel good about being fit.

I am a University professor. I see students who are thin as rails, never exercise, smoke, and down huge quantities of stimulants. I see obese students who always eat fried food and the 800+ calorie ice cream desserts they can get on their meal plan from our campus dining service. I see students who don’t sleep enough and push themselves too hard all the time. Type A people have been shown to stand a higher risk of death from a number of stress related disorders. I have seen students at the gym who I suspect are taking steroids to help them look more muscular and ripped.

So, should we be careful to not have overly muscled people in ads? What about type A’s who are doing everything? What about overly thin teenagers? Wouldn’t it be nice if ads were only allowed to present the facts about the product? If I had to pick something wrong with ads, the appearance of a few high BMI individuals would not even make my list.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

No Surprise

"Your score is 97 out of a possible 100

Usually a Procrastinator

You rank in the top 10% in terms of procrastination. That is, when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t. Likely, you are much more free-spirited, adventurous, and spontaneous than most. Probably, your work doesn’t engage you as much as you would like or perhaps you are surrounded by many easily available and much more pleasant temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you see many of them as time-wasters. Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress. You may want to reduce what procrastination you do commit. If so, here are three tips that have been shown to work:

Goal Setting
This is one of the most established ways of moving forward on your plans. Take any project you are presently procrastinating and break it down into individual steps. Each of these steps should have the following three aspects. First, they should be somewhat challenging though achievable for you. It is more satisfying to accomplish a challenge. Second, they should be proximal, that is you can achieve them fairly soon, preferable today or over the next few days. Third, they should be specific, that is you know exactly when you have accomplished them. If you can visualize in your mind what you should do, even better.

Stimulus Control
This method has also been well tested and is very successful. What you need is a single place that you do your work and nothing else. Essentially, you need an office, though many students have a favorite desk at a library. For stimulus control to work best, the office or desk should be free of any signs of temptation or easily available distractions that might pull you away (e.g., no games, no chit-chat, no web-surfing). If you need a break, that is fine, but make sure you have it someplace at least a few minutes distant, preferably outside of the building itself. If you are unwilling to take the time to get there, acknowledge that you likely don’t need the break.

Routines are difficult to get into but in the end, this is often our aim. Things are much easier to do when we get into a habit of them, whether it is work, exercise, or errands. If you schedule some of those tasks you are presently procrastinating upon so that they occur on a regular schedule, they become easier. Start your routine slowly, something to which you can easily commit. Eventually, like brushing your teeth, it will likely become something you just do, not taking much effort at all. At this point, you might add to your routine, again always keeping your overall level of effort at a moderate to low level. Importantly, when you fall off your routine, inevitable with sickness or the unexpected, get back on it as soon as possible. Your routine gets stronger every time your follow it. It also gets weaker every time you don’t."