Obese Star Loses Weight!!

"Obese Star" Real Headline

But not the kind of star you’re thinking. I was browsing articles over on HuffPost earlier today, and was shocked to run into an article with the headline: “Scientists Discover Obese Star…” It was somewhat shocking to me because I had no idea actual astronomical stars could be obese. Having taken an astronomy class in undergrad, I thought I knew all types of stars…red giants, white dwarfs, etc. But I’d never heard of an obese star.

What does this tell us, then, that journalists (or maybe even the astronomers?) are co-opting weightist language to describe phenomena? For me, it actually makes me wonder about how we use the word “obese.” I am a fat woman. That is how I describe myself. But, medically, I am obese. To many people, being “obese” means you’re ill. It means you’re too fat. Many people think it denotes laziness, overeating, inactivity. To many people, “obese” is a negative term.

How, then, does this translate to astronomy? It doesn’t. The star in question has a lot of mass. It’s 320 times larger than earth’s sun, and is quite a discovery. But calling it “obese” doesn’t add anything to the article. All it does is make you wonder, “How could a star be obese?”

It wasn’t until I read the article again (I had saved it because it bugged me so much) that it really hit me. The reason the astronomers and journalists are couching this star’s discovery in terms of obesity and weight is because it’s an analogy that most people will understand.

“Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age,” said Crowther, an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield in northern England. “R136a1 is already middle-aged and has undergone an intense weight loss program.”

They’re trying to humanize it, and give it a defined relative mass. They’re trying to make it resonate with people through a metaphor that is obvious.

To me, it’s reminiscent of “ha ha, look at how funny we’re being by calling this thing fat.” They’re trying to be clever, but they don’t think about how they’re using the word. Does this stretch obesity too far? Are people now relating obesity to anything bigger than the sun? If this article were read by millions of people, would people call me a “big fat star” instead of a “big fat elephant?” When will the hyperbole end, and what damage will it do?

The Obesity Epidemic: What Really Gets To Me

I am currently in a TV Production Studio class at my college, and yesterday we took a field trip to the local CBS affiliate to see their studio and how they run their 5:00 news. It was really really exciting for me. I just thought it was so cool–seeing how everything works, watching the reality of the show as it’s happening, and hearing the newscasters make snarky comments while a segment was rolling in. Very neat.

Unfortunately, one of the stories was a health story alleging that obesity is as likely to kill you as smoking. I don’t know what study they were citing, but apparently new research has concluded that you’re equally likely to die early if you’re fat as you are if you’re a smoker.

It was at this moment that it became perfectly clear to me what my major problem is with the “obesity epidemic.” What the news, society, doctors, medicine at large, etc. fail to acknowledge is that it’s not obesity that’s killing people; it’s the problems they associate with obesity. Under the title of obesity fall high blood pressure, immobility, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. etc. Obesity itself doesn’t kill people; all these other problems kill people. And whereas the scientific community would like to say that obesity=these problems, I think most of us in the fat-o-sphere are living proof that that is not true.

I also think that the large number of individuals who are thin and have these same issues are proving them wrong as well. My normal-weight (by BMI standards) friend has high cholesterol. Another of my friends (who is normal weight by BMI standards) has high blood pressure. The list goes on. How does the medical community reconcile that? They are just health issues. They aren’t caused by anything more than genetics, maybe an unhealthy diet. When they show up in fat people, it’s considered a result of their obesity.

I just will never understand it. It’s like obesity is a virus, like the flu, that’s going to kill you slowly. Or that your fat is just going to strangle you one day while you sleep. WTF is that? I’m never going to understand it.

On the other hand, I do have high cholesterol. I’m trying to get it under control with diet and exercise and medication. But it’s in my family history. My dad has high cholesterol, my mom has high cholesterol. Two of my grandparents (one from each side) have had bypass surgeries due to blocked arteries. It’s flippin’ genetic. But still, when I walk into a doctors office, the first thing I’m told is that I need to get my weight under control. Like weight will solve all of my issues.

It wasn’t until recently that I really figured out how to approach this whole deal (with HAES as my guidance): we, in our society, and me personally, need to shift our focus from WEIGHT to HEALTH. It’s one simple thing. We need to switch from treatments for OBESITY to treatments for particular HEALTH ISSUES. Although I’m sure losing weight will help my cholesterol, losing weight isn’t enough, nor is it likely to happen quickly. I can start right now to change my cholesterol by eating right, working out, etc. But if I were to focus on my weight, as the treatment for my disease is asking me to do, I doubt I would get healthier. In fact, I’d just have an unhealthy view of the world.

This all just really clicked in my head today, though I’ve been thinking of it (not in these terms) for a while. It’s all in how we think about things. Sadly, I think that in the case of most of our society’s health issues, it needs to start with mind over matter: get it right, then make it right.

Research Methodology For The Lose

Hello, Jigglers! Here I am, browsing Google News, when what do I see but yet another “health” article about food and eating.

Why Saying No to Foods May Be Harder for Women

I am sure you can deconstruct most of the issues with the article yourselves. You’re smart readers.

However, having just returned from a physics conference I would like to note one thing.

For the study, which appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers asked 13 women and 10 men about their favorite foods. The participants said they liked a variety of dishes and desserts, including lasagna, pizza, brownies, ice cream and fried chicken.

I am sorry, but a study of 23 people does NOT provide enough data to make statistical inferences about an entire species. NO. Also, did they have a control group of any kind? Did they try this with another group of people who hadn’t been fasting? Were the study’s participants (I like how the word “participants” is used to hide the fact that they’re actually “experimental subjects,” a concept which squicks us out) all in the same age group? Including that information could help to support the thesis of those who did the study, if they compared women of childbearing age to women who were not.

And, of course, they jump right to the “biological imperative” explanation, instead of allowing for factors like, oh, I dunno… Maybe the crazy-ass body pressure that women experience which is so inextricably tied up with food in our dumbfuck culture?

Seriously. You don’t just look at 23 different brain patterns and start claiming things about how evolution and baybeez mean all women are weak-willed face-stuffers.

Scientific research methods. Learn them. Use them. Get back to me later.