Avoid skinny people…and you become skinny! Or not.

“Want To Lose Weight? Avoid Skinny Overeaters” is really and truly the title of the latest bit of head-shakingly insane “research” promoted over at Yahoo!’s main page.

“According to a study that will appear in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, both the size and consumption habits of our eating companions can influence our food intake. And contrary to existing research that says you should steer clear of eating with heavier people who order large portions, it’s the beanpoles with the big appetites you really need to avoid. “They’re big trouble,” says Gavan Fitzsimons, a marketing professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and one of the study’s co-authors.” (Emphasis mine).

So, here we have research done for Consumer Research, which people couldn’t WAIT to turn into a “Ohmygods! You eat more if those skinny bastards around you are eating more!  And don’t you realize?  If you’re not ALREADY skinny, you have absolutely NO RIGHT to eat food!  Fatty.”

“So, if an obese person is helping himself to a large portion, I’ll hold back a bit because, well, I see the ultimate results of his eating habits, and I don’t want the stigma associated with being overweight. But if the thin person eats a lot, why shouldn’t I follow suit? If he can gorge herself and still keep trim, why can’t I?” (Emphasis mine).

Indeed. Why CAN’T we all just Eat The Same and stay “thin people”??  Could it POSSIBLY be because body size and shape have a natural variance in the human population??  No?  Oh, yeah sorry.  That would mean dieting was a worthless venture and all those diet pill marketers would be out of their lush comfortable jobs.  Sorry.  My bad.  Please continue.

“At the same time, if a thin dining companion orders a small portion, I too will hold back because I want to mirror the habits of a body type to which many people aspire. However, if an overweight persons orders light, I’ll make an adjustment. Obviously, small portions aren’t working for him. If tiny meals don’t help you stay trim, what’s the point? Get me the cheeseburger deluxe.” (Emphasis mine).

So.  Consumer Research.  Showing that we tend, as humans, to follow environmental cues of those around us when gauging our food intake.  Could it at all be linked to how socially ingrained the fear and even hatred of Fat is that people might at all consider a person’s size before decided whether or not to mimic their eating habits?  This pervasive thought that not only do people just “know” fatties must overeat at all times, always, in order to “be that way”; but that this thought therefore gives mental license to others to eat more because “Hell, at least I’ve GOT to be eating less than that huge thing!”

*sigh*  At least I can end on a more logical note:

Weight is seen as controllable, unlike other stigmatized traits such as race and gender. Our subjects held a particularly strong explicit belief that fat people are lazy. This belief assumes that overweight individuals simply lack motivation or responsibility for a condition that is under their control.”

Wang et al, International Journal of Obesity (2004) 28, 1333–1337.

And, some further very recent food for thought:

Media coverage of the role of genetics in obesity causation may influence health behaviours as well as public support for obesity prevention policies. This study examined the five highest circulating daily newspapers for articles addressing genetics and obesity between January 1, 1990 and June 14, 2007. Of 776 articles found, 109 were reviewed. Results indicate a shift away from a deterministic view of obesity towards a personal responsibility perspective over time. These findings may have implications for public policy.

This analysis found a noticeable shift away from a deterministic framing of obesity. After 1999, stories about obesity genes increasingly portrayed obesity as a disease for which individuals are personally responsible (lifestyle was coded as a proxy for notions of individual responsibility), with lifestyle identified both as a cause and a remedy, rather than being caused by unchangeable environmental or genetic factors. It appears that when the gene stories first appear, the deterministic possibilities dominate the frame. As the obesity gene story evolves with time, the media’s tendency to place to locus of responsibility on the individual returns. Indeed, other studies of media portrayals of obesity have found an “unbalanced emphasis on personal responsibility in public health” (Emphasis mine)

–Caulfield, T., V. Alfonso, J. Shelley. “Deterministic?: Newspaper Representations of Obesity and Genetics.” The Open Obesity Journal (1); 38-40.

So, the spin the media gives to the “Obesity Epi-panic” may have an effect, nay even implications for how health and prevention policies are formed? And that media spin has devolved more and more into an “It’s all YOUR FAULT! Fatty.” rhetoric and away from any sort of deterministic frame? Yes.  Indeed that IS rather interesting.

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6 thoughts on “Avoid skinny people…and you become skinny! Or not.

  1. I love how they acknowledge that there are thin people who can overeat and remain thin, but still seem to portray fat people as the product of overeating. As if genetics slants to one side only.

    • Rachel I know, that’s what always boggles the mind. Everyone is willing to admit they know that “Skinny friend who can eat and eat and not gain an ounce” but the reverse just for some reason can not possibly exist! It just doesn’t make sense!!

  2. This is typical of how the smeckperts go on;

    “It’s our intuition sometimes that you don’t want to eat with big people because you’re afraid you’ll eat more,”

    Not just blaming fat people, but blaming the public for hating as if it’s nothing to do with them and yet;

    And contrary to existing research that says you should steer clear of eating with heavier people who order large portions

    So what are they saying? That people avoid doing what they see fat people doing, as they’ve been taught and follow fashion with slim people, as they’ve been taught.

    Researchers then study this; the public mind absorbing their BS, and they conclude that it’s all wrong and they need different BS??!! Spare us.

    I really dislike the way the crisis feeds off itself like this.

  3. Pingback: Fun with old Science News Letter article titles « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  4. WOW! My husband and step daughter and our daughter are all tiny people.. they have to be soaking wet to step on a scale and tip it to any kind of weight. LOL
    My sons, my other step daughter and I are all heavier… yet, my husband and step daughter (who are thin) can eat me out of house and home, while I eat small portions and am often told I don’t eat enough. I do eat till I am full and satisfied… which doesn’t take much.

    So, I would love for the people of this study to come live at my house for a while to see how we all eat.. I think it would blow their study out of the water.

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