Shit that pisses me off — fat students not allowed to graduate, and other headlines.

If you’re fat, too bad — no degree for you. Not until you’ve been rehabilitated and/or re-educated, that is.

Lincoln University has a new policy whereby students with a BMI over 30 are required to either lose weight or take a “Fitness for Life” course. Since they’re obviously too fucking dim to understand anything about nutrition or fitness, given that they’re fatty-fatty-fat-fats. (Relevant MetaFilter post. And NPR blog post.)

Okay, I know you know this, but let me just state, for the record: I am really goddamn fat. I’ve also just completed about four years’-worth of classes that focus on nutrition and fitness. And, now that I know a thing or two about nutrition and health — I’m still really goddamn fat.

(Thank you to Charlene, who emailed this in.)

ETA: Here’s a more in-depth analysis of the school policy’s legality and implications.

break50

A new study claims that “Self-control [is] key to preventing childhood obesity” – except what I think they’re actually talking about is promoting eating competence by not restricting children’s diets. But I’m sure measuring self-control is WAHAAAAY better for getting research funding.

(Here’s the abstract to the actual study. I need to read the whole thing still, but I reserve the right to be pre-emptively pissy about these things.)

break50

And, lastly but not leastly, the mystifying “Stop picking on fat people” appeared in the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal.

I read it and immediately thought, “Buuuuuhwhat?”

Like, I’m sure it means well, but there’s a lot of stupid shit in there, including many lulzy references to how much food fat people eat. (To wit: those fat people sure do eat a lot!) And the author compares fat people to “workaholics, alcoholics or garden-variety idiots.”

Awesome.

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36 Comments

  1. Posted November 21, 2009 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Yes, fat people are obviously stupid don’t you know. Like most fat people I also faked my health credentials.

    Despite the anger you’re feeling your post made me smile. So thanks. I get to go to bed with that instead of full blown crank.

  2. Posted November 21, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Wow that is just stupid. Schools are a joke in this day and age.

  3. Posted November 21, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    This is sad! A person’s weight is no excuse to deny someone a degree they’ve worked hard for!

  4. Adisson
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Wow I remember reading about the possibility of these school policies, but I was hoping they were part of the OMGOBESITYRUN thing, and would blow over. :( boo

  5. Charlene
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    So glad you blogged about this :) I hope they are slapped with a huge lawsuit. Unf’nbelievable

  6. Posted November 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Some of this stuff is mind-blowingly stupid. What does weight have anything to do with graduating? Also, I’d take a guess that most fat people not only realize that they’re fat, but also know a whole lot more about nutrition than the general population, from trying to diet. From my own personal experience, and a few honest studies that I’ve read, diets tend to cause weight gain, and HAES is a much better approach, if anyone was really concerned with health, which is also making a big assumption. If I really wanted to be cynical, I might think that we’re trying to medicalize/criminilize obesity to help out the pharmaceutical and “diet” industries, but it’s too early in the morning for me to go there.

  7. O.C.
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Joe Queenan, the writer of the WSJ piece, is a humor writer. Taken in that spirit the piece makes a liiiiiiittle more sense, but not a lot.

    What do you bet that fat students will start self-selecting out of Lincoln University? The BMI of the student body drops, and the university gets to claim that its program made some big f-ing difference in student health? Peachy.

    Reading that article I kept wondering what Lincoln plans to do about the health of its thin students who eat poorly and don’t exercise? Apparently nothing. Wouldn’t you love to see a lawsuit brought by one of them?

    • Posted November 21, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I was wondering about the humour-writer thing (I think his byline indicates as much.) But I thought it might be another example of attempted satire that failed miserably (there was a good example a while back in a college paper that called fat people all these hateful things, and it was apparently supposed to be satire, but it read like anything but. Since, you know, people actually believe all those things about fat people, quite in earnest, and it’s difficult to draw a line between reality and satire there.) And, as far as comedy goes, “fat people sure do eat a lot!” is really old hat.

  8. Posted November 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Do they make all of the students that overindulge in alcohol or sex take a classes that will re-educate them on those habits? How about students who smoke cigarettes or pot? How about students who aren’t fat but don’t work out or “eat right”?

  9. Lisa
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Good. Fucking. Lord. I can’t tell if it is one of the most patronising examples of paternalism I have seen this century or simply blatant stupidity! Gahhhhhhhhhhhh!

  10. JennyRose
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    The guy from Lincoln U has massive issues. He has turned the school into his little fiefdom where he lords it over the students. He just like making these fat kids miserable “for their own good.” What a control freak.

  11. Posted November 21, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Boy howdy amen. A Facebook friend pointed me to the Lincoln University story coverage on MSNBC, where I thanked god((dess(e))(s))) that only 13% of respondents to their online poll seemed to think the fat-shaming policy was a totally good idea. Then I had to move quickly away from the comments section, because of course there was no shortage of fat hate from even the people who said “hell no!” let alone the folks saying “educate everyone” — and now the total is up to 19% in favor. Gah.

  12. Posted November 21, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    On the upside (Yes *I* am pointing out the upside. It does happen ; ), The Comments on the Lincoln U homepage are (as of this) running about 99% against (ie; This is stupid / Who thought this would be a good idea?).

    Read the WSJ piece and, yeah, so humorous! So clever! How, ever, did he work in all those obscure double ententes? Just so we wouldn’t figure out he was having a little bit of fun on us fat folks! Of course, we don’t mind because he’s such a rascal. I mean, this is right up there with, “Hur-hur-hur! Dey said FATZ!”. Dazzling in it’s intellect.
    /sarcasm

    Haven’t gotten to the other yet, but the title makes it sound like a thesis on Fascist Child Rearing Techniques. This should be amusing.

  13. Posted November 21, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of those “it would be okay if they required everyone to take it” people. I had 2 semesters of phys ed required in undergraduate, and it was fine. No problem. Tai Chi and Modern Dance. I had a ball.

    This tells me that they think fat people need to get different health advice than everyone else, and that’s problematic. In addition, it’s bound to be humiliating, and singling out students by BMI is discriminatory. Maybe it’s just a strategy to keep fat kids from applying, hoping that their whole student body and future alumni pool will look like they just stepped off “The Cosby Show.”

    • Posted November 21, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      I would really have to see the content of the course before I could really give it my okay, even if it were required for every student. But then, I’m picky about stuff like this. It’s one thing to have a course encouraging people to do physical activity in ways they enjoy — it’s another thing to have a course that attempts to indoctrinate people with health-meritocracy ideas. Unfortunately, my skepticism urges me to assume that this course is very likely the latter. If that were the case, then I wouldn’t want it to be required for any student.

      • Posted November 21, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        That’s a good point. I was assuming that if it were required for everyone, then they’d have to take more of a HAES approach – you know, eat your fruits and veggies and stay active? Or, maybe they’d just require people to select an activity course, like my school did. But who knows what they’d come up with…

        • Posted November 22, 2009 at 12:38 am | Permalink

          I’m such a contrarian that I don’t even like the ubiquitous “fruits and veggies” advice. I think it’s manipulative and infantilizing. I like fruits and veggies as much as the next person, but I don’t like being told constantly that I should be eating them. (And, more often than not, that advice is passed around not out of concern for people getting enough micronutrients and phytochemicals, but because fruits and veggies are used as a way to bulk up and lower overall calories in peoples’ diets. Sneeeeaky.)

          I actually think telling people what to do is counterproductive, but that’s more of a philosophical quibble than a nutritional one.

          • Posted November 22, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

            I think the “eat plenty of fruits and veggies” advice is pretty harmless, myself – unless it’s implied that that’s ALL someone should eat – that there’s something wrong with sources of carbs and protein.

          • Posted November 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            I just have a problem with it after reading some research about intrinsic motivation vs. operant conditioning in behaviourism. It turns out that, according to some studies they’ve done on college students, that telling people what to do and then rewarding them for doing it actually makes the subjects want to do it *less* than giving them the option of doing it or not doing it. So, in effect, telling people to eat fruits and veggies and then giving them a big pat on the head for doing so actually could result in making people averse to eating fruits and vegetables in the future.

            It’s sort of the same reason behavioural changes coming from dieting don’t last — because, while you might be eating really well and getting a healthy amount of exercise during the diet, you’re relying on the “reward” of weight loss to keep you going. Once the reward stops, because you plateau or start regaining weight back, then the healthy behaviours stop, too. Because you were not tapping into the intrinsic rewards of those behaviours to motivate you.

            There’s also an issue that, if you frame something (a desirable behaviour, like eating fruits and veggies, taking the stairs, etc.) as a thing that needs to be explicitly *promoted* or that people need to be explicitly *rewarded* for doing, people actually interpret that to mean that the behaviour itself isn’t intrinsically worthwhile. Children who are paid a small amount of money to solve puzzles (that they would normally have fun solving on their own) actually begin to rate the worth of the puzzles lower, because they make the assumption that, if you have to be paid (or rewarded, or exhorted) to do something, then it probably means that thing is kind of icky, in and of itself.

            Another example is when parents hold out dessert to children as a *reward* for eating vegetables. Naturally, the vegetables then lose whatever natural lustre they might’ve had, because they become merely a means to an end.

            Sorry for rambling, I’ve just been reading/thinking a lot about this topic. I obviously need to write an entire post on it.

          • Ulumuri
            Posted November 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            Of course, that makes perfect sense. If you imply people need to be coerced into doing something, they’re gonna wonder what’s wrong with it (and the reverse. I remember, as a kid, thinking “drugs must be a lot of fun, or they wouldn’t need all this D.A.R.E. stuff.”)

          • Posted November 22, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            I would say “Great idea for a post! I hope you write one on that,” but then you might lose your intrinsic motivation.
            :-D

          • Posted November 22, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            YOU LITTLE SHIT

            Just for that, I’ll rebel by writing it.

  14. Posted November 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    My big question was in what universe these students allowed their college to weigh them in the first place. I would no sooner have gotten on a scale for some random college official than I would have flown. That alone seems like a massive encroachment on civil rights. You do not have the right to know what I weigh, unless you’re my doctor and have an actual reason to need to know it, like, I’m pregnant and you have to keep an eye on weight gain for blood sugar and pre-eclampsia issues.

    • Posted November 22, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Amen to that. But, I’m guessing that most students would comply. A lot of them will have already had forced weigh-ins in primary and secondary school.

      • Posted November 28, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

        And sometimes not even just for health class.

        I got weighed in band once for “we’re ordering new marching band uniforms” even though I wasn’t in the marching band, just the sit-down symphonic one.

    • Robyn
      Posted November 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. No way in hell would I have stepped on the scale as a freshman in the first place, let alone let it get all the way to senior year. Same for elementary/secondary school. They don’t get to weigh my child. Of course, I am one of *those* parents who also refuses to allow my children to take standardized tests, so they already don’t like me.

      • Posted November 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Oooh, you’re a difficult one, eh?

        Alrighty then, git in The Box with the others. We’ll let you out once you’ve learned your lesson.

        • Gingerbug
          Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          Here is a thought…. Isn’t BMI a flawed predictor anyways?
          It is unable to take in to consideration bone and muscle mass.
          So it basically generalizes and therfore isn’t ‘proven’ enough to
          base such blatant discrimination on. My son according to BMI is
          obese with a capital ‘O’ but the kid has a 6 pack and trains 3 days a week in TeaKwonDo. Nevermind how effed up it is to evaluate a 5 year old on his weight. That is so dangerous! I know parents restricting healthy fats ( hello? Brain development anyone?) because of crap like this….bahhhhh!

  15. Posted November 23, 2009 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    The chronicle.com link had an interesting comment, something along the lines of, “What’s next, no diploma if you smoke?” If what they’re trying to do is turn a lot of kids who are “borderline obese” into bulimics (or chain-smokers), they couldn’t be doing a better job. But do they really expect all the fat kids to get and stay thin from one PE course? What happens if you take the course and your BMI is still > 30, do they make you keep taking it over and over again, or do they just expel you?

    • Posted November 23, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Oh, I guess if you take it, they figure you’ve paid your dues for being fat or whatever.

      But I agree that if they want to potentially make people sick, or else just be really put off of exercising and eating well, this is exactly the way to do it.

  16. Posted November 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This policy can’t be critiqued thoroughly without looking at the ableism as well as the fatphobia.

    The quote from the department chair in the article, “a sound mind in a sound body”, is a direct quote – a motto from the eugenics movement of a hundred years ago. It’s terrifying that educators are clinging to that, and using it to inform policy. He says, right out loud (*blink blink*), that he sees it as his professional duty – him, who students have not consulted for advice – to “tell students they’re not healthy”. No, that’s none of his business. None of his business in any way, shape, or form. No student has any responsibility to disclose their health status to him, and no student deserves to be assessed and judged by him.

    Diet classes are very obviously not appropriate for everyone. (Problems with generic advice have already been identified in this thread; also, how many people with eating disorders are they plonking into these classes, to be compulsorily triggered multiple times per week?)

    In addition, however, exercise classes are not appropriate for everyone either. Recommending “activity” is not appropriate for everyone. I presume people with some disabilities are made to jump through hoops (which cost both money and energy) to get around these compulsory classes. I also fear greatly for those people with certain disabilities for whom off-the-shelf exercise is difficult, impossible, or dangerous who may be caught up in this programme because they don’t have diagnoses (yet/at all/etc), or because their doctors are misinformed about the role of exercise in their condition.

    • Posted November 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes, thank you very much. You’re right — this needs to be thoroughly analyzed from the perspective of disability.

      We all need to remember that blanket “healthy eating” and “healthy exercise” advice isn’t totally benign stuff. It comes with the potential for complications, and, like any drug, side-effects as well.

      This is one of my biggest problems with public health promotion efforts and campaigns — this kind of advice *can’t* be applied equally, and safely, to everyone. And people for whom this advice may be dangerous/counterproductive shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of anomalous exception. I would venture a guess that many, many more people than we might assume live with conditions (or even past experiences, like disordered eating) that would render this type of advice useless or risky.

      And you know what else? This is why I think there needs to be closer ties between the disability and fat acceptance communities. Because, at least from the social model perspective, fatness is disabled in many ways, and programs intended to address “obesity” often indirectly target disabled people.

    • Posted November 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      We had real problems in high school health class because of kids with severe asthma being heavily urged (AKA ‘bring parents and ADA threats or put up with it’) to do fitness activities and testing that were barely doable for most of the other students.

      It was required to pass the class to graduate, required to pass the fitness tests to pass the course, and all but a handful of (mainly athlete) students didn’t know if we were going to graduate on time until near the end of the class.

      And it didn’t make us into lifetime exercisers. I don’t know why the teacher thought driving us to physical breakdown multiple times a week would.

  17. Posted November 24, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I reserve the right to be pre-emptively pissy

    I’m seriously considering adopting this as my motto

  18. sannanina
    Posted November 25, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    About the “self-control preventing childhood obesity” thing… If they said self-regulation they might actually have a point (actually eating competence does sound a lot like a form of self-regulation skills). Self-control is usually defined as consciously regulating your behavior. Self-regulation includes also subconscious processes. I think the idea that it is a good idea to control one’s eating by consciously overwriting your “gut feeling” is not useful not only because people usually know instinctually to quite some degree what, when, and how much to eat unless they have unlearned to follow their instincts but also because there is tons of evidence that consious self-control is a limited resource and only works as long as you don’t have to pay too much attention to anything else. Subconscious self-regulation on the other hand happens when you have internalized a goal to the degree that you follow it without paying conscious attention.
    I really don’t see how this study was measuring self-control rather than less conscious forms of self-regulation. (Not to mention that there could be a lot of reasons why fat kids might have lower levels of self-regulation in areas other than eating – one reason might be their parents attempts to control them, another would be experiencing social exclusion, a third that they spend to many cognitive resources on trying to control food intake. And of course it is also possible that parents rate the behavior of fat kids as less controlled/ less appropriate because they have internalized stereotypes of fat kids/ people.)

  19. iphy
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    as the utmost in irony, if you go to the Lincoln athletic website, the 2 ads that they have on it are both for food. (some mexican place and pizza)

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