Mefi does obesity well June 20, 2013 10:28 AM   Subscribe

The obesity-as-disease thread is going much, much better than I expected it to, and I just wanted to thank all those responsible.

Thanks, all those responsible!
posted by flabdablet to Etiquette/Policy at 10:28 AM (60 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

You're welcome.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:35 AM on June 20, 2013


I was a little bummed, though, to see "obesity kills" pop up in the James Gandolfini thread.
posted by kate blank at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I thought the recent Trayvon Martin thread was pretty good too, avoided a lot of the pitfalls discussions of the case usually fall in to.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2013


I don't know -- last night I came home sad and told my husband -- who has savored Gandolfini's performances, especially as Tony Soprano, with me -- about the death. And he, who is obese himself and diagnosed with diabetes 2, immediately reacted by saying -- "That's too bad. But he was huge." ABC did a story on GMA today making a similar health point about the link between the definition of obesity as a disease and Gandolfini's death.

There's a big difference between pointing out that obesity poses enormous health risks and blaming the person who died for their own death, I think. Because the causes of obesity aren't so simple as most of the nation making bad lifestyle choices.
posted by bearwife at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here is the link for the GMA story.
posted by bearwife at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2013


It actually caused me no small amount of despair. I stayed out of it because I didn't want to stir up anything. I recognize that if I see myself as a healthy person who is also obese by the BMI (and no, not one of those people who just has a ton of muscle mass, alas!) then -- by the heavy weight of majority opinion, that's just an oxymoron. Being in the tiny minority is never easy, and it's even harder when you feel like by stepping into the discussion, all of your personal life choices are up for debate and judgement.
posted by Jeanne at 11:04 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]



I was a little bummed, though, to see "obesity kills" pop up in the James Gandolfini thread.


I agree. I purposely avoided that sort of thing in FB posts and IRL conversations and Metafilter comments about JG's horrifically sad death.

That said, some recent interviews/videos of him had me concerned for him. I'm not his doctor but...poor guy wasn't looking that well.
posted by sweetkid at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2013


ABC did a story on GMA today making a similar health point about the link between the definition of obesity as a disease and Gandolfini's death.

That's charming. I wonder if they did a story on the dangers of cigarette smoking the morning after John Lennon died, because he was a lifelong chainsmoker, and he was dead, so obviously the two had to be related.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's not fair at all. If Lennon had died of lung cancer you might have a point. He died by being shot. Gandolfini died of a heart attack which is absolutely correlated with obesity.

I didn't comment in the thread but the obesity thing is something mentioned on television, including by doctors on TV, and not just commenters on the internet.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


That's charming. I wonder if they did a story on the dangers of cigarette smoking the morning after John Lennon died, because he was a lifelong chainsmoker, and he was dead, so obviously the two had to be related.

...
posted by entropicamericana at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2013


Christ people, can't we just agree that the obvious cause of death for both of them was being too awesome? I mean, think about all the awesome people who have died. IT'S SO OBVIOUS.

This is why I endeavor in my life to be as shitty as possible. I'll live forever.
posted by phunniemee at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


Oh, on the other hand Gandolfini was a cocaine addict (recovered) which isn't exactly something which leads to heart health, particularly when combined with weight issues. And nobody on television seems to want to talk about that so I don't know why they're cool with going on about his eating habits.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd like to add my appreciation for stavrosthewonderchicken's comment in particular, which put the whole "Simple not easy" thing in a way that didn't feel like a value judgment, and subsequently helped me see other similar statements in a different light. I'm not wise enough to avoid such threads, but in this case I didn't regret having followed the conversation. Other than my own comments that is, but I typically regret all of those.
posted by Lorin at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's not fair at all. If Lennon had died of lung cancer you might have a point. He died by being shot. Gandolfini died of a heart attack which is absolutely correlated with obesity.

It doesn't matter that obesity increases the risk of health problems and early death. We had a similar thread about a doctor who wrote about how she was trying to figure out her obligations as a medical professional with the epidemic in front of her, and we couldn't discuss it there, either. This is just one of those subjects, unfortunately, that people are not allowed to discuss in a frank and adult manner on Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems weird to complain we're not allowed to discuss in a frank manner given we're discussing it in a frank manner. silenced all my etc.
posted by Justinian at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, on the other hand Gandolfini was a cocaine addict (recovered)...nobody on television seems to want to talk about that so I don't know why they're cool with going on about his eating habits.

People on television are typically thin. Perhaps this is a glass houses thing.
posted by davejay at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2013


silenced all my etc.

I'm speaking in general terms, as far as how this topic is handled here. Not claiming any particular silencing by any one person. Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2013


Oh, on the other hand Gandolfini was a cocaine addict (recovered) which isn't exactly something which leads to heart health, particularly when combined with weight issues. And nobody on television seems to want to talk about that so I don't know why they're cool with going on about his eating habits.

I have no idea what people on TV are talking about, but Googling "Gandolfini cocaine" suggests that plenty of people are talking about the role that might have played in his death.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm speaking in general terms, as far as how this topic is handled here. Not claiming any particular silencing by any one person. Thanks.

Be the change etc
posted by sweetkid at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Of course obesity can lead to health problems. It can also correlate with health problems without necessarily causing them. The opposite causal relationship is also quite common: health problems can cause weight gain, particularly in people who aren't naturally stick thin to begin with.

Sorry, the Lennon thing was intended to be a mainly comedic quip about logic in general and the propensity of shallow media to find some tasteless way to capitalize on a celebrity death. However, I do remember when Warren Zevon was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, a bunch of folks immediately launched into the "tsk tsk, cigarettes drugs fast living" thing and would have continued if the mesothelioma angle hadn't been widely publicized.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2013


Lorin: "I'd like to add my appreciation for stavrosthewonderchicken's comment in particular, which put the whole "Simple not easy" thing in a way that didn't feel like a value judgment, and subsequently helped me see other similar statements in a different light. I'm not wise enough to avoid such threads, but in this case I didn't regret having followed the conversation. Other than my own comments that is, but I typically regret all of those."

Stav typically writes thoughtful and fantastic comments, but that one in particular was exceptional.

We've had a lot of threads on the topic go very poorly. It's nice to see one go well!
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2013


I skipped that thread, so thanks, Lorin, for pointing out stav's comment. Really good.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:06 PM on June 20, 2013


The obesity-as-disease thread is going much, much better than I expected it to...

"Come, DerailBoy, we are needed!"
"What is it, Threadshitter?"
"It's an obesity thread. And it's going well."
"Holy ice cream, Threadshitter! This is a real double scooper!"
"Quickly. To the Trollmobile, old chum."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


I'm glad to hear it (about the original thread). I saw it, had a feeling it would go badly and stayed the fuck away.

Nice to be proven wrong.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2013


ThreadShitter and DerailBoy? I've got $20 for that Kickstarter sitting right here, ready to go.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"We had a similar thread about a doctor who wrote about how she was trying to figure out her obligations as a medical professional with the epidemic in front of her, and we couldn't discuss it there, either."

I remember that article, if not the thread, and that's such a mischaracterization of that article. The article itself was extremely provocative. She wrote some pretty offensive (to some people) things. Of course the resulting thread would be all about the fight she was provoking by how she framed the issue in her piece.

What MeFi "doesn't do well" is when a link, or a contingent of mefites, have a "there's something wrong with you people" provocative attitude. That's very much not the same thing as the topic itself being impossible to talk about.

A number of topics we've had trouble with here on MeFi have been rehabilitated over the years as the people who like to throw bombs in these threads have been steadily discouraged from doing so. Those people are unhappy. Everyone else is relieved that we can actually have, say, obesity threads which aren't shitstorms.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


A number of topics we've had trouble with here on MeFi have been rehabilitated over the years as the people who like to throw bombs in these threads have been steadily discouraged from doing so.

I hope you're not insinuating I do that where this is concerned, because that's not true, and never has.

I'm just observing a general problem where an obesity-themed thread is said to 'go well' if people avoid discussing the very real health issues associated with the subject. That is a sad but very real problem with that and certain other threads that pre-favor or pre-filter discussion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:24 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just observing a general problem where an obesity-themed thread is said to 'go well' if people avoid discussing the very real health issues associated with the subject.

Obesity threads go well when people don't mistakenly interpret 'health issues associated with obesity' to be 'health issues caused by obesity'. And also when they don't shame obese people.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


And also when they don't shame obese people.

This is key. Luckily, we rarely see blatant comments like that anymore, like some of the comments back in this old thread.
posted by Falconetti at 1:58 PM on June 20, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: " I'm just observing a general problem where an obesity-themed thread is said to 'go well' if people avoid discussing the very real health issues associated with the subject. That is a sad but very real problem with that and certain other threads that pre-favor or pre-filter discussion."

Yes, but that did not happen in the current obesity thread, which has featured an extensive conversation about whether obesity should be classified as a disease and why. Obesity's risk factors have been a prominent part of the discussion.

One of the things that was brought up repeatedly in that thread was society's tendency to cast being obese as a moral failing. In fact, some of the people who posted comments were doing exactly that.

I don't think there's anything wrong with discussing the way Gandolfini died, and speculating about possible causes of his heart attack. On the other hand perhaps it's also worth considering that there can be a fine line between a reasonable discussion and blaming the victim for his own demise. A blog post I read earlier placed it in sharp perspective:
But little comments like that…like “Oh well he did it to himself because he’s fat” just irk me. Of course being overweight contributes to medical problems and heart disease, I’m not denying that at all….but fuck! Come on. That is an uncouth, flippant comment in the same vein as “If only he had cancer so he could have at least been skinny before he died.”

Every time a celebrity dies who isn’t super old or super thin I find myself praying that they died of something other than a heart attack just because of little quips like this. It’s like saying “Oh a gay person died? Was it AIDS? because gay people die of AIDS all the time. It’s what they die of. If they didn’t want to die they shouldn’t have been gay with AIDS.”

posted by zarq at 2:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And also when they don't shame obese people.

One problem is when people mistakenly conflate a discussion about the health effects of obesity with a shaming campaign, as happened in the thread I mentioned, which was focused on a doctor's observations about a public health matter and her own complex role in perpetuating it by treating symptoms. Said thread was derailed by this conflation, again, which is one example of why people should be suspicious of claims that a thread "goes well" when it is really meant that a thread's discussions "aligned well" with existing opinions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


people mistakenly conflate a discussion about the health effects of obesity with a shaming campaign

Can you point to examples so we know specifically what you are talking about?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:16 PM on June 20, 2013


If this is the thread in question, then I'm not seeing what BP is seeing.

Basically one (two?) commenters said the doctor was shaming fat people, and then a bunch of people in that thread debunked the idea. It didn't derail the thread. It furthered the discussion.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on June 20, 2013


I don't think there's anything wrong with discussing the way Gandolfini died, and speculating about possible causes of his heart attack.

I hadn't been following the press coverage, but I just skimmed a few things, and it's interesting that there seems to be a general assumption that Gandolfini was obese. I mean, he very well might have been, but are people deciding that by looking at random photographs of a total stranger, or what? Weird.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2013


Yeah, maybe he just enjoyed wearing 10 thick sweaters at all times.
posted by Justinian at 2:29 PM on June 20, 2013


Many of us also watched him for 86 hours.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:32 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


FelliniBlank: " I hadn't been following the press coverage, but I just skimmed a few things, and it's interesting that there seems to be a general assumption that Gandolfini was obese. I mean, he very well might have been, but are people deciding that by looking at random photographs of a total stranger, or what? Weird."

MisantropicPainforest: "Many of us also watched him for 86 hours."

During the fifth season of the Sopranos, I was struck by how much weight he had gained, and how that was coming across on camera. The dimensions of his face had changed. His body as well. Whereas he had once been a relatively fit-looking, big guy, now he was noticeably heavier and didn't move as easily as he had in season one. You could actually hear him wheezing during quiet scenes. It was quite pronounced. As was the tone of his voice, which reflected the respiratory issues he seemed to be having. Don't know if anyone else had a similar reaction, but as an asthmatic I found his wheezing a little disquieting.
posted by zarq at 2:37 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, I remember that and how disturbing it was as well.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched The Sopranos too, and he looked like a relatively big-and-tall guy to me, but I have no idea how tall he was, how much he weighed at various times, the size of his frame, where he carried weight, how much of it was fat vs muscle, his medical history, etc. etc.

Hell, Nathan Fillion and David Boreanaz leap to mind as celebs who look larger or more filled out to me than they did a while back, but that could be a complete hallucination on my part. I have an actor acquaintance who looks emaciated in person, and I'm not exaggerating, but he looks sort of muscular-normal on TV.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


zarq,

IIRC, David Chase asked Gandolfini to put on the extra weight.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2013


There's still too much self-help twaddle in that thread... I understand it serves as a crowing spot for those who have had short-term success in losing weight, but it's not usually based on any real treatment, nor reflect long term success. It's most often just an adaption of a fad diet that happened to click for someone, and now they're all the keeper of the golden key to thinness.

Recidivism rates established by medical study and personal experience shows it's just noise, they'll be rejoining the ranks of the heavy sooner or later.

Even with the Juinior Richard Simmons Brigade in full song, obesity threads do go a lot better these days.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you have something to say to somebody in particular, maybe you should say it to them in MeMail instead of making thinly veiled comments in MeTa.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:46 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's still too much self-help twaddle in that thread

I agree. I wish there had been more discussion of the direct topic of the article, even if that was contentious, than weight-loss or healthy eating advice. What bugs me about most of the "MeFi doesn't do X topic well" threads is that they end up replaying the same (usually off-topic) conversation of the last 12 times.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


IIRC, David Chase asked Gandolfini to put on the extra weight.

My understanding is that this refers to weight put on before the first season of the Sopranos, not the weight that JG gained over the course of the series. Which was substantial.
posted by Justinian at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2013


I could be wrong, Justinian, but I don't think so. I think Chase wanted to display Tony's slow decline. And there were many many scenes in season six that illustrated Tony's increasing appetite.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2013


During the fifth season of the Sopranos, I was struck by how much weight he had gained, and how that was coming across on camera.

Thought this was going to be a Nathan Fillion comment.

And can I say I find comments like "Now please excuse me. I have to get on with circumcising my declawed Israeli-Palestinian cat" tiresome? Give the thread a chance to go to shit before you shit on it declaring it will go to shit.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you have something to say to somebody in particular, maybe you should say it to them in MeMail instead of making thinly veiled comments in MeTa.

No, there are a half dozen or so people offering diet advice in that thread alone, and there will be a different set of Dr. Oz wannabes in the next thread on the topic. It pops up whenever obesity does, regardless of context, and from a wide spectrum of participants.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess I sit in with the group who is conflicted about that stuff. Social constructionism and Labeling theory has been around long enough that we do know that stigma is created around these types of ideas. It's not that we shouldn't address these problems but I think people should be aware of what can happen when these ideas are instituted and perhaps try to be aware of how they are contributing.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest: " IIRC, David Chase asked Gandolfini to put on the extra weight."

Huh. I didn't know that.
posted by zarq at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2013


I watched The Sopranos too, and he looked like a relatively big-and-tall guy to me, but I have no idea how tall he was, how much he weighed at various times, the size of his frame, where he carried weight, how much of it was fat vs muscle, his medical history, etc. etc.

When I saw him a few years back, he was a little over six feet tall and looked to be about 280-290 pounds. I hate to say it, but I think he was in better shape than me (6-4, 290).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on June 20, 2013


This is just one of those subjects, unfortunately, that people are not allowed to discuss in a frank and adult manner on Metafilter.

I agree with you, but not on the frank part. Mostly on the adult part.

It definitely can and does drop to a highschool-early college level of debating and tiresome shit, but coming in to the room and going "lol wow you guys are sure throwing poop at each other" like you did adds absolutely nothing to the conversation and doesn't improve that in any way. The side dish of "woe is me" in there also wasn't really a value-add.

It also seems like it was going pretty great until it reached MeTa.
posted by emptythought at 4:13 PM on June 20, 2013


I wonder if they did a story on the dangers of cigarette smoking the morning after John Lennon died, because he was a lifelong chainsmoker, and he was dead, so obviously the two had to be related.

This is the stupidest comment I've ever read on Metafilter, even though I appreciate the sentiment.
posted by OmieWise at 5:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the positive words, folks.

I honestly have never held much truck with the 'Metafilter doesn't do X well' thing, even in the face of ample evidence that it doesn't.

Metafilter isn't a monolithic thing, it's people, and as individuals, if we make an effort, then things can go better. Self-fulfilling prophecies of failure don't leave the door open to the possibility doing better. We don't need everyone to try, just a significant majority. Or even a significant minority, maybe. There's no shame in trying and failing.

But given my long history of wharrrgarrrbl, I'm no poster boy for restraint, even if I am personally trying to do better the last few years.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:33 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the problems I had with that thread (and yes, it comes up in every thread on the topic) is that everyone seems to think that their own weight loss is relevant to the topic at hand. There is no one's individual weight loss which is relevant to whether obesity should or should not be considered a disease. Although everyone's own experiences are valid, they are not necessarily applicable to everyone else, and anyone countering that with a 'not every person is the same, what worked for you didn't work for me' is subject to a series of assumptions and shifting goalposts, which start at 'did you try eating less and exercising more'? and end somewhere in the neighborhood of 'are you sure you haven't eaten any bread products this year?'

It is surely true that some people are fat because they ate too much/exercised too little. Once they stop that, and they lose a bunch of weight because of it, they might think that everyone is in that exact same boat and all everyone needs to do is move a little more and eat a little less. Not everyone, though, is in that boat. Fat people (especially women, I suspect) often have dieted their entire lives, which can ruin their metabolisms. People have different levels/kinds of gut bacteria which can affect how many calories they absorb from the same amount of food. The Michael Pollan article I linked in the main thread explains that lean mice become fat (and vice versa) when the gut bacteria of a fat mouse is introduced into their system-- we may not know what that means for people yet, but it's extremely possible that the people who are fat despite good diet and exercise habits (yes, these people exist) simply have gut bacteria that is helping make them fat instead of the kind that is helping make them thin. There are a lot of factors at play and though I certainly don't know all of them I feel that it's a lot more complex than most people-- especially people who haven't dealt with weight issues their whole lives-- would think.
posted by matcha action at 5:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, matcha action, your reservations are exactly the things I was trying to address when I commented in that thread.

All we can do, really, with most things, is to talk about our own experience or things we've learned in hopes that they are useful to others, and be aware and sensitive to the inescapable facts that everyone truly is different no matter how much we have in common and that when it comes down to it our most of own experiences might not be all that applicable or useful to others.

Our own experiences can't be relevant for everyone, but we share them in hopes that they are relevant for someone.

All we can do is try, and all we can do is talk about what we know. And be kind to folks as much as we're able.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


people should be suspicious of claims that a thread "goes well" when it is really meant that a thread's discussions "aligned well" with existing opinions

To be perfectly clear: the reason it struck me that this particular thread was "going well" is that it has not devolved into a pointless back-and-forth about I'm right and you're wrong. Instead, there are lots of people riffing on obsesity-as-disease and their personal viewpoints on that, and lots of people recounting personal experience in enough detail to make it clear where they're coming from.

So far there's really only been one comment with the customary "STFU and just learn not to stuff your stupid faces you stupid fat fucks" feel, and that was handled with remarkable swiftness and effectiveness in a "remedy for objectionable speech is more speech" mode.

What I'm enjoying about that thread is reading a whole bunch of voices contributing a whole bunch of perspectives on a contentious topic without having it devolve into Somebody is Wrong on the Internet. Thanks again to everybody doing that, and thanks again for any unseen moderation that's helped it happen.
posted by flabdablet at 11:28 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also seems like it was going pretty great until it reached MeTa.

Having these "We are doing this well" posts in MeTa very early on in a thread's existence are actually not great ways to keep a thread going decently. I totally understand the impulse, but people should consider that it might be better to let a thread run more of its course in MeFi before making these sorts of posts here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:46 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone informed me that FelliniBlank closed their account at some point in this discussion, perhaps after I posted my inelegant and personal comment above. I'm sorry if my comment caused or contributed to FelliniBlank deciding to close their account for, what I hope, will be a brief period. I am, of course, not in any position to argue substance at this point, but I regret not arguing substance when I could have, and I'm sorry for taking a cheap shot.
posted by OmieWise at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2013


not great ways to keep a thread going decently

Sigh.

Looking forward to the day when I can thank people for the "Mefi does Mefi does obesity well MeTa well" MeTa.
posted by flabdablet at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2013


During the fifth season of the Sopranos, I was struck by how much weight he had gained, and how that was coming across on camera.

I remember that being lampshaded... there's a scene where Tony weighs himself and he's nearly 300lbs (despite taking off various items of clothing and trying again). And another where he looks in the mirror and realises how big he's getting.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older "Lavaballing" thread sexist and dissenting...   |   Ragnarok On. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments