Of "healthy eating," thigh cream,
and discrimination from within

by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer Ph.D.

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There is a bad thing going on and it's been creeping up on us. I'm talking about the quiet replacement of the term "dieting" with "healthy eating." Maybe it started with those "wellness" programs that are nothing more than policies developed by corporations and insurance companies to weed out what they consider high risk employees and clients. After all, well is good. Who doesn't want to be well? Then the great Oprah Winfrey embarrassed herself in front of millions by proclaiming her short-lived Optifast weight loss the most important achievement of her life. That's when the word "diet" forever lost its magic.

Diet columns in the media became "Healthy Eating" columns (without change in content, of course), the word "health" is in the tide of most new diet books, and every diet huckster now yells "healthy eating" and "exercise!" The scam, of course, is that healthy eating still means thin, and fat people are still supposed to feel guilty about the kind and amount of food they eat. Most leaders in the size acceptance movement have been promoting healthy eating and appropriate exercise for years. But they weren't talking about diet foods sold under sanctimonious "Healthy Choice" labels, or Susan Powter's money-grabbing insanity. What's happening is a particularly vicious and dangerous attempt at deceiving fat people, robbing them of proper care, and shaming them into forking over their money and self-esteem. By going beyond the tactics of ridicule and embarrassment (without dropping those old stalwarts, of course) to the weeding out of fat people under the guise of "wellness" and to misappropriating the term "healthy eating" and using it for moral bullying, the body nazis and profiteers have stooped to new lows. This is a tactic right out of the fascist and racist arsenal. So watch out and be aware. Let common sense tell you what's healthy, and not the diet industry and insurance companies.

Did anyone see the Larry King Show on thigh reducing cream? Here's the man whose show has become a forum for discussing the pressing societal and political issues of our time, and he spends an entire hour on thigh reducing cream. The show featured Dr. Brome, promoter of the controversial salve, NAAFA's executive director Sally Smith, and a "satisfied customer' on live satellite link from Los Angeles, then continued with feminist author Wendy Kramer facing Georgette Mosbacher, a proponent of makeup and good looks. The fact that this whole thigh reducing cream business is positively weird was apparent even to Dr. Brome who appropriately took sort of a well-rehearsed bumpkin approach: Gee, golly, this thing kinda smooths out skin and, gosh, we found out about it years ago but no one noticed until this reporter fella happened by, and now it's in all the papers. But if it makes the ladies feel better, I guess that's good. The doctor then said he thinks before the end of the decade we'll have creams to make pot bellies and general obesity go away. Hard to believe, but that's what he said. But he hadn't counted on Sally Smith who gave an A-1 performance. She dismissed the cream as a sad commentary on what's wrong with our looksism-oriented society and called it just another scam to make a quick buck off fat women. She wondered why a man who'd spent years to get degrees in medicine and law would peddle thigh reducing cream. She aborted Larry King's attempt at meandering from thigh cream to the noble goals of obesity research (health, of course), by pointing out that obesity research was mainly concerned with filling its own pockets, with many researchers being on the diet industry's payroll, and that, given the fact that diets don't work, the money'd be better spent in determining how to truly help fat people rather than making them thin. The callers were predominantly against the thigh cream. It was almost as if size acceptance advocates had swamped CNN's phone lines (come to think of it, a good strategy to flavor an issue). Anyway, this was a prime example of how to seize the moment and expose a sham.

In this issue we're tackling another interesting phenomenon: for some time now there has been a trend to judge the desirability of people in the size acceptance movement by their size. Those who are not fat, or not fat enough, are second class. This is happening to mid-size women who go to dances and events, and to mid-size or thin people of both sexes who are involved in the movement. New York Assemblyman Dan Feldman recently said that a movement has truly arrived when there is discrimination from within. I do wish we could have arrived some other way. Read the positions of both sides. We also have a brilliant essay by author Hillel Schwartz that discusses our society's strange treatment of fat people as a typical fin-de-ciecle phenomenon. Lot's of heavy stuff, but we're not neglecting other issues: Heather Boyle, our featured model, talks about her experiences growing up as a fat girl. There is a portrait of the talented FA artist Paul Delacroix. Susan Morgan-Taylor reviews the problems many of us have with our families over our preferences. Bill Sherman looks at political correctness, and there's some delightful fiction.


Editor at Large