The Myths About Fat People
Shannon Palus: Hello and welcome to The Waves, Slate’s podcast about gender, feminism and this week, bodies. Each week you get a pair of feminists talking about what we cannot get off of our minds. I’m Shannon Palus, Slate’s science and health editor. It’s the new year and many Americans are starting a diet and exercise regimens with the hope of getting fitter and losing weight. Many, many, many of them will fail, especially in the long term, not because people are lazy or not doing the right exercises or not eating the right things, but because weight loss is incredibly hard.
Shannon Palus: We all kind of know that. And yet it flies in the face of so much cultural messaging around weight and drought and fitness that if you just quote unquote, take care of yourself, you’ll look a certain way. And that looking a certain way will also be better for your body.
Shannon Palus: And that if fat people don’t resolve to lose weight, if fat people just exist. They’re glorifying obesity. That is all wrong. We’re going to explore why it’s wrong today. When I’m joined by Aubrey Gordon. Aubrey is the host of the popular podcast Maintenance Fares, which takes a critical look at the wellness industry. She’s also the author of two books, including one that’s out this week. It’s called You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. After the break, Aubrey and I are going to get into the noxious idea that healthier is always better. Why the practice of debating myths can be so frustrating. And the problem with ad campaigns for products like SOAP that try to be more inclusive. I hope you’ll keep listening.
Shannon Palus: Aubrey. Welcome to the Waves.
Aubrey Gordon: Shannon Thank you so much for having me. This is such a treat.
Shannon Palus: We’re so excited to have you here. We’re talking, of course, about your new book. But I wanted to start off by asking you to tell listeners how you started writing about fatness on the Internet. This is not always been your job.
Aubrey Gordon: No, no. I spent about a dozen years as a community organizer working on what my best friend and I call popularizing unpopular issues. So we worked on a bunch of LGBT issues. We worked on immigration, we worked on voting rates, a bunch of things that people didn’t like at the time, but they’ve come around on a little more sense, which is good.
Aubrey Gordon: In that space, I found that despite having a really wonderful community of queer people and feminists and people who are dedicated to racial justice and people who are dedicated to social justice broadly, that many of them were sort of astonishingly regressive on fat stuff, the words that they would use to describe fat people were things like personal responsibility and genuinely like bootstraps and like all of these, like pretty hard left people that I was spending a lot of time with would get weirdly conservative when it came to fatness. If you don’t like the way you’re treated, just lose weight. Just put a little muscle into it. You know, it’s just calories in, calories out. You just got to do the do the work and you’ll get there, which is the kind of upwardly mobile kind of narrative that they would absolutely question on almost any other issue. Right.
Aubrey Gordon: So I started writing the first thing that I wrote was a letter to a friend who I got into a disagreement with about body stuff. She was talking about her own experience with her negative body image as a thin person. And I was talking about my experience of sort of external discrimination and bias as a fat person, and we just couldn’t quite see eye to eye. We didn’t you know, it wasn’t a contentious disagreement, but we didn’t quite, you know, get there and meet each other.
Aubrey Gordon: So I wrote her a letter and sent it to a friend to make sure I wasn’t being a total jerk. And he looked at over and said, You know, I think there are some other people who could stand to read this and told me about Medium, which was a place that I could post it. I told them I wanted to post it anonymously if I posted it more broadly, which was his suggestion. And I posted that letter and it got, I don’t know, 30 or 40,000 reads in the first week or something like it was just really astronomical. So I spent four or five years writing totally anonymously about what it’s like to be a very fat person in the U.S..
Shannon Palus: I can see why you posted that initial water anonymously, but pretty quickly, I think you were writing Itself magazine. So for a formal audience, why did you keep being anonymous for for several years after that?
Aubrey Gordon: Part of it was that I had a job and I knew the politics of the people that I worked with. And I knew that if I wanted to build coalitions in the way that my job required of me, I needed to be quieter about this thing. Unless it was the issue, I couldn’t let it stand in the way of other work that needed to happen.
Aubrey Gordon: And the other part that came pretty quickly. Within a few months of starting to write, I started to get death threats and people who are sort of tracking where I was. And anytime I mentioned a location, they would email me and that kind of thing. So I was just like, I’m just going to stay anonymous until that situation blows over. Then when I published my my first book, which was my last book in 2020, it became real clear that it’s going to be real hard to do a book tour. If nobody can see your face. It’s going to be really hard to do media if nobody can know your name. And over time, it just became more troubled to carry around this sort of big, cumbersome anonymity than it did to just, you know, take some precautionary steps and go on. Anonymous.
Shannon Palus: So your latest book is all about myth busting. And I found the intro to the book really interesting because you actually make a little case against myth busting before you get into, you know, 200 plus pages of myth busting. And I kind of consider maintenance fears a myth busting podcast. I don’t know if you do. So what is wrong with myth busting in your view? And why did you decide to write a whole book about myth busting anyway?
Aubrey Gordon: Yeah, it’s a really tricky relationship. I feel like as a community organizer, anybody else who has done any kind of work to try and change private or public policy or change people’s minds or open them up on different issues. Kind of knows on some level that a bunch of hard facts, as much as we like to cling to this very enlightenment era idea that we’re all persuaded by facts and that’s it. We’ve kind of known for a long time in political research world that like that’s not actually what changes people’s minds. People don’t just dispassionately look at a bunch of facts and figures and go, Well, you’ve made the case. Our borders should be open. Like, that’s not that’s not how people work, right? What changes people’s minds are stories and what sort of opens them up are stories.
Aubrey Gordon: But we’re also at this place on things related to being a fat person where the number of people who are willing to be vocal around fatness and in defense of fat people and in support of fat people is dramatically smaller than it is on any number of issues that have been sort of mainstreamed. Certainly on the left rate. And part of the reason for that is that a lot of folks who want to speak up about it don’t feel like they actually know their stuff enough to be confident enough to speak up about it. So even though myth busting is sort of this fraught activity, it also really matters for people who want to be supportive of the issue, to feel like they’ve got their facts behind them, to feel like they’ve got their ducks in a row and to feel like they can sort of take what comes to them. And usually what comes to them is not like prove your history. And if it is, that’s probably not a person who’s like, super gettable, frankly.
Shannon Palus: Myth busting. Not always the most effective strategy to change hearts and minds directly. But if you myth backs to people who are either going to go out there and talk to their families and say like, actually, like it makes me really uncomfortable and you comment on my weight that way or like actually makes me really uncomfortable when you comment on, you know, like my friend’s weight that way. Like here, here are some things I learned. Like maybe you can combine a little bit of the, the factual stuff with like the emotional personal appeal stuff. Is that right?
Aubrey Gordon: Absolutely. And again, it just feels like most of us when we speak about any kind of sort of social or political issue, take the approach of like cramming for a test. Like, I can’t talk about this tax policy or this immigration policy until I know every single thing about it, as if we’re going to get up at podiums and be in a debate with like your uncle at the holidays or whatever.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. And generally, that’s not how that happens, right? Like, generally, we end up in conversations that are sort of way muddier than that. They’re way more lasting than that. And they take more time than just like, you know, we also sort of have this pretty unrealistic expectation that if we do the conversation right, someone will change their entire viewpoint in one conversation, which is also not totally how people work. It usually takes us years to grow on an issue. So giving folks sort of stronger histories, better data, all of that kind of stuff, so that they feel confident enough to tell their own story and to speak their own truths on this issue feels really, really important to me.
Shannon Palus: The book is crammed with facts. You go through studies, you quote doctors, you quote activists. It has history in it. But one thing I found really interesting is that at the end of each chapter, you have a list of questions, and there are discussion questions that people can use in groups. And there are also questions that people can use to just interrogate their own biases. Could you expand a little on why including those was important?
Aubrey Gordon: So this is the thing that I did on Twitter for a long time is I would write a thread and then turn off the comments and be like, Don’t post your answers. If you post your answers, you’re going to hurt the feelings of a lot of people who are reading your stuff. These are questions to get really honest with yourself about. And they’re things like, you know, one of the things that we hear really, really constantly about fat people is a fat person will set a boundary and say, I don’t actually want to talk about diets with you or I don’t actually want to talk about exercise or I’m not trying to lose weight or whatever. And the response overwhelmingly from people who are not fat is why I’m doing it for you. Why aren’t you grateful? I’m just concerned about you.
Aubrey Gordon: Which, first of all, I would say just on its face, is like kind of bananas. I wouldn’t if someone told me that I had double parked in front of their car and they needed me to move my car, I wouldn’t be like, I’m doing it for you. Why are you grateful? I like that person. Ask something of me, right. And I can just do not do it. But like, it’s a weird spin to put on that.
Aubrey Gordon: So there are questions in the book that are things like, you know, do you try and take down someone’s health? History before you decide how to treat them. Do you think someone’s boundaries should be changed based on whether or not they are disabled or you think they’re disabled? Right. Do you think that any sort of daily activities that fat people do could be considered glorifying obesity? Why do you think that? What does it mean to glorify obesity?
Aubrey Gordon: Right. Like those kinds of questions to really lead folks through some of their own thinking, Because I think quite a bit of the most anti fat stuff that I hear as on again, many, many, many issues just really falls apart. If you spend 10 to 15 seconds thinking about it. Right. Like and and I think quite a bit of the, you know, health concern trolling falls under that category as well. Like it doesn’t make people healthier. If you yell at them when they tell you to stop yelling at them like that doesn’t that’s not like a health promoting behavior mainly. We’re good.
Shannon Palus: Yeah, we don’t we don’t yell at people for other unhealthy behaviors in the same way or we don’t yell it. I guess there’s just I should say, we don’t yell at thin people for unhealthy behaviors.
Aubrey Gordon: Yes, absolutely. There’s like who gets yelled at is a really different and rich sort of conversation for sure but like yeah, generally speaking, if a thin person takes a picture of themself eating pizza, you know, on occasion someone will go, You may want to think about that, but that’s about as bad as it gets if a fat person takes a picture of themselves glorifying obesity. Excuse me, I just skipped right to the punchline. Takes the picture of them glorifying obesity by eating a pizza. Pizza. You know, we’ll get comments like you are glorifying obesity or in one case, I got one that said you’ve got blood on your hands for taking a picture of myself eating something.
Shannon Palus: And I was, oh, wow.
Aubrey Gordon: We just went to 1000 on that scale. Got it.
Shannon Palus: Right. Yeah. So to rephrase my initial comment. Right. So thin people think people are not yelled at for eating pizza or having dessert. It might be like, wow, good for you. Well, I totally.
Aubrey Gordon: Love a girl who can. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
Shannon Palus: That’s the word. Yes. Well, well.
Shannon Palus: We’re going to take a break here. If you want to hear even more from Aubrey and myself, check out our Slate Plus segment. I asked Aubrey for her thoughts on the latest miracle weight loss drug ozempic. Miracle is in. Big scare quotes there, by the way. And if you’re not a member, please consider supporting the show by joining Slate. Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast, no paywall on the Slate site, and bonus content of shows like AMC’s Sleep Money and of course, this one. To learn more, go to Slate.com, slash the way of supplies.
Shannon Palus: If you can get this book into anyone’s hands, who who would you hope is reading it?
Aubrey Gordon: I mean, I think anybody who’s self-selecting in come on down. I’m so thrilled. My hope is that this is a book that makes its way into the hands of kids, of moms they think are unmovable. That’s my hope. I think when it comes to sort of body image and body size and sort of, you know, the experience of moving through the world as a fat person. We sort of exist in a cultural script that tells us that any fat kids are the result of bad parenting. As a result, a lot of parents put a ton of pressure on their kids to lose weight and a ton of pressure on themselves to have thin kids, which their kids may or may not have been.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. And what that means in the long term is if you have a parent who’s been pressuring you to change for your whole life, that really takes a toll on the relationship. Like that really, really takes a toll on the relationship.
Aubrey Gordon: And my hope is that, particularly if you’ve got parents or family members or loved ones who are, you know, really, really stuck on some really old timey anti fat stuff, my hope is that those are the folks who pick this one up and use it to, you know, strengthen their own standpoint in those conversations with their families and friends and loved ones.
Shannon Palus: Yeah, in talking about like that, that emotional relationship, that story, that can really change hearts and minds. Like if you’re a kid with parents who love you and who are just like doing the best with the shitty tools that they have been given throughout their lives by society, that’s like it seems like if anywhere is going to make movement on this issue, that’s like one of the a good place.
Aubrey Gordon: That’s my parents, man. That’s absolutely the story of my parents. Like both of them are like deeply lovely, thoughtful people who were raising kids in the 1980s and nineties at the peak of like deep, weird, low fat diet stuff at the height of a last straw at the height of Weight Watchers, all of that kind of stuff. And we’ve now gotten to the point where I was over at my dad’s house the other day and someone brought up the BMI. And my dad just sort of barked at him. That was invented by a mathematician and an astronomer. He wasn’t a doctor. It was like, oh, my dad’s on board. We got him. It’s like, totally amazing, right? That’s my hope is that more and more folks are able to, you know, take on those conversations in their own time, in their own way, and move more folks forward. And over time, folks will get there. You know, it won’t be a single conversation, but folks will get there.
Shannon Palus: So why don’t you dive into one of them that you talk about in the book? The myth goes body positivity is about feeling better about yourself. As long as you’re happy and healthy. And you start off that chapter by talking about body positivity as roots in the fat acceptance movement, the work that black women did several decades ago to not feel good about themselves, but to get basic human respect out there in the world.
Shannon Palus: And folks did famines in the sixties where people would gather in public places and protest discrimination. And you trace those movements all the way up to 2004 when Dove launched the Real Beauty Campaign. And I remember watching these ads in a school assembly. And there’s like the one that I remember the most clearly is like a very conventionally attractive white woman being Photoshopped, like to the point of recognizability. And it was supposed to clue us in on the fact that retouching happens. And you should feel good about yourself anyway because you’re beautiful.
Shannon Palus: And I’m wondering if you could just answer the question, the basic question of like, okay, well, like, this is a corporation trying to sell me or something. The lady in the ad is pretty like maybe you’re teaching 14 year olds like something basic about the world, but like, you know, they should understand that retouching happens. What’s so bad about that?
Aubrey Gordon: I don’t think it’s necessarily like the worst thing that has happened in human history. Right. But I do think there’s some. You know, for a campaign that billed itself as being all about inclusion, it was a surprisingly exclusive campaign. Right. That, like in order to be retouched, you have to first be photographed. I am a person who has been at the high end of plus sizes since high school. No one is taking my picture unless I tell them to. And then no one is posting that picture anywhere. Right? So retouching absolutely speaks to people who are have smaller. Oversized bodies than mine who feel a real struggle with their own body image, the way that they think about their own body.
Aubrey Gordon: What that doesn’t actually do is do anything to change the material conditions that have created those feelings about their bodies. Right. And it also continues to tell me that even when we’re talking about feeling better about your body, you don’t actually qualify. You’re still too fat to feel okay about your body.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. That real beauty campaign, I would say, just based on my own recollection, probably stopped the sizes that they included that like a 16 or an 18. No one had roles. No one had cellulite. No one had any kind of body shape that did anything other than reinforce very reductive gender norms.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. Like hourglass bodies as far as the eye can see. There would be older people, but they would only get as old as like 60. There were no people who either discussed having disabilities or had any visible mobility aids or any other markers of disability. There were black people, indigenous people and people of color involved, but there was quite a bit of colorism present in the casting, right, That all of these things are sort of to me symbolic of moving the goalposts of the beauty standard, but not fundamentally challenging it and not fundamentally calling into question where that beauty standard comes from and who it serves, which Dove ads were never going to do that because the beauty standard serves dove right.
Aubrey Gordon: They sell things for skin care. They sell things that are labeled with like anti-aging and things that are right, like all of that kind of stuff. Of course, they weren’t going to start that kind of critical conversation. But the trick is that that was a wider stage for talking about body image than any of the sort of related movements had ever had.
Aubrey Gordon: So body positivity is a movement again rooted in fad acceptance, rooted in fad activism and liberation, was suddenly flooded with people who had only seen these TV ads and thought, well, body positivity is about feeling better about myself and I need to feel better about myself. But hang on, there are some fat people here and I don’t want to be lumped in with them. So body positivity is really for people who are happy and healthy and you can look at them and tell that they’re not healthy without really realizing that they were pointing at the people who had started the movement that they were now claiming and benefiting from.
Shannon Palus: What are the other things that you point out in that chapter that I think is really important is that like you’re not actually required to be happy or healthy, to deserve respect in the world. Like you can be sad, you can have type two diabetes, you could have a chronic illness, and you can also be working on those things as part of your life. And at the same time, you deserve medical care. You know, not to be ashamed when you are walking around in a bathing suit, all of that stuff.
Aubrey Gordon: Yeah. People with depression and anxiety and bipolar and whatever other things also deserve to feel okay in their bodies and also deserve to be treated as people who are okay in their bodies. Right. I don’t know about you when I have been deep in a depression, it doesn’t really help me to have a lot of people telling me that I’m not allowed to feel okay about my body. Right. Like, that’s not a super therapeutic vibe for me, right? If you want or need to feel better about your body, you should feel better about your body. And we should be creating the conditions that make that possible. And right now, we’re just kind of telling people to feel better about their bodies without really creating the conditions that would allow them to actually do that.
Shannon Palus: I’m curious, in a perfect world, like when do you go to the Dove website? What would you see? Like, how would Kaisers advertise their soap? Why do you think that they would have more inclusive campaigns? Or like what? What would that look like?
Aubrey Gordon: I don’t know that I need anything in particular out of Dove’s advertising campaigns, aside from not claiming the work of movements that they don’t understand. Right? Like, honestly, if I were designing websites for like any corporation, I’d be like, Dove, we sell soap. Do you need soap? It’s here. Really? The end, Sephora. We’ve got makeup. What kind of makeup do you want?
Aubrey Gordon: You’re. It is great, right? Like, all of that kind of stuff would be great. I think there’s something really pernicious about corporations claiming to be movements, which was a big trend of the 20 tens. Right? That sort of everything was joined the movement by a razor from us. Join the movement, buy a mattress from us, join the movement. And in this case, there was an actual sort of co-opting of an existing social justice movement that happened in a in a very sort of constant. Treated way from a number of corporate interests who sought to profit. By selling products that undercut the movement.
Aubrey Gordon: I mean, I think the other big example of that one is Halo Top, which bizarrely advertises itself as it is a, you know, a pint of ice cream that advertises itself as you should eat the whole pint. It’s only X number of calories. It’s sort of designed to be binged. And they have had a wave of ads that are like, don’t let people push you around. You should have what you want. And what you want is our ice cream that is half air and chicory, root, fibre and whatever else. Right. And that’s another case of sort of co-opting this idea of, you know, food freedom or embracing your body or whatever in the service of selling you a diet food. So how much is it telling you to embrace your body like question mark?
Shannon Palus: I find all this like really interesting when it collides with like Instagram influencers who are not corporations but are selling us stuff but are also living their lives, like in this like performative way, designed to like, get you to click on their Amazon affiliate links. So I’m wondering if, like, if you have any recommendations for someone who says like, Oh, well, like I follow a lot of like body positivity influencers and like, I don’t know, like I guess part of my question is like, is that good or okay? And like maybe the answer there is like, well, like it’s Instagram, like everything’s going to have something wrong with it, but what do you do You have any recommendations for that until like maybe engage in the actual movement where thoughtfully.
Aubrey Gordon: A couple of things. One is I think there’s something that happens when folks exclusively opt in to the parts of the conversations about fatness and fat justice and liberation and also body positivity where they just opt into the parts that are about how you feel about your own body. And that becomes their lens for viewing the rest of the world, right? So that is a kind of person who’s sort of steeped in that.
Aubrey Gordon: Messaging is also the kind of person who, if I go to the doctor and have a doctor who at £350 refuses to examine me or refuses to touch me, which has absolutely happened to me, I have had friends who are deeply steeped in the body image, part of body positivity, say, Well, you just need to love yourself. I totally hear you. I’ve had bad body images too, which is a really different thing than this person with power over me in really distinct ways. Refused to meet my needs and I don’t really have any recourse for that. Right? Me loving myself doesn’t change that. Doctors existing bias. So I would say to folks who are following exclusively people who don’t wear plus sizes, who consider themselves to be body positive, I would say add some fat people to that list. Right? I would encourage folks to read the works of other fat writers.
Aubrey Gordon: I think Roxane Gay is Hunger is absolutely extraordinary. I think Deshawn Harrison’s belly of the Beast is absolutely phenomenal, right? That taking some steps into a better understanding of where the concept of body positivity comes from, but also what are the sort of social messages and the institutional messages that are telling you that you shouldn’t feel good about your body because those are actually things we can change.
Aubrey Gordon: And the problem there isn’t that your brain is just refusing to love your body. The problem there is every day you wake up and are bombarded with messages about what kinds of bodies are acceptable to see and to look at what kinds of bodies can’t be seen, can’t be treated with respect. And all of us, through no necessary fault of our own, just sort of sop that up through osmosis and figure out how to replicate it.
Aubrey Gordon: So I would say tuning in to more fat people and reading the work of more fat people and more disabled people and more trans people should be like a really essential part of that journey for any number of folks generally listening to you and lifting up folks who have more marginalized identities or different life experiences than our own, I think is like a really good growth experience and really important to building movements that last.
Shannon Palus: You’ve already recommended a couple of books, but you make a point of recommending a whole list of books in your book. So I’m wondering if you could leave our listeners with one or two more authors that they should check out after they’ve read your book?
Aubrey Gordon: Yes, I would say Sabrina Strings, who’s a sociology professor, has written a book called Fearing the Black Body, about the very deep historical links between anti-blackness and anti fatness. I would say if you. We are looking for young adult novels. Julie Murphy, If you need some fiction in your Life, has written a number of wonderful young adult novels about fat kids, and particularly fat girls and teens that are absolutely wonderful. And I would say Sonya Renee Taylor has written an absolutely extraordinary book several years ago. Now it’s on its second edition called The Body Is Not an Apology. That is absolutely worth your time.
Shannon Palus: Aubrey, thank you so much for joining us.
Aubrey Gordon: Oh, my God. Truly such a dream. Truly, any time. This was like an absolute joy.
Shannon Palus: And of course, our listeners can order your book. It officially comes out on January 7th. We’ll put a link in the show notes for them. The book title, again is You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. Also, I want to let listeners know that if they enjoyed this conversation, they might enjoy checking out my new column. It’s called Good Fit. It’s all about exercise. And the first installment is why exercise doesn’t need to be about health. That’s available on Slate right now. And I’ll put a link in the show notes to that channel.
Shannon Palus: And that’s our show this week for Waves is produced by Cheyna Roth. Daisy Rosario is senior supervising producer of Audio. Alicia Montgomery is vice president of Audio. We would love to hear from you. Email us at the waves at slate.com. The waves will back next week. Different hosts, different topic, same time and place.
Shannon Palus: So we often the conceit of our Slate plus segments is often is this feminist? And we say it in a very tongue in cheek way. So I think we we know going into this conversation that we know we know something is not feminist. But I think that, you know, I don’t even know if I can cram into the framework this time, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Just because any time I see a story about it, I don’t think I’ve been getting ads for it. But, you know, it’s popped up on Instagram. I just kind of react in horror and I am excited to chat with you a little bit about it in the framework of your book. For folks who are living in a world where they have not heard about this drug. First of all, can I come join you?
Aubrey Gordon: Yeah. If you’ve been living in that world, turn off this podcast right now and continue your blissful ignorance of this utter garbage. Yes, I’m totally with you. Also.
Shannon Palus: I wasn’t thick as a shot that. Well, we don’t have to go into all of the details, but basically it’s a shot that was designed to to treat type two diabetes and is now being used off label to help people lose weight. And what was your reaction when you first heard about this? It’s been kind of like sold as like this miracle thing or this new thing. Did it sound new to you or just like same same set new rapper?
Aubrey Gordon: No, it sounded to me. So I’ll talk about two things. One is sort of what it sounded like and then what it is. What it sounded like to me was like the new miracle drug question. Mark was sort of much of the media coverage around the launch of Ozempic and we go, V is another brand name for the same thing. They’re both Semaglutide. And it sounded to me, I mean, the new miracle drug question mark was the cover of either Time or Newsweek around Fen Phen in the nineties. And folks who remember Fen remember that? That is the one prescription diet drug that was pulled from the shelves in the nineties because it stopped people’s hearts. It was approved on a fast track and killed people.
Aubrey Gordon: To me, when we get this spun up about a weight loss drug this early, it’s usually a bad sign because it means that people will get more attached to the fantasy of weight loss, which statistically we know that most weight loss efforts fail and many lead to future weight gain directly as a result of attempting to lose weight. Right. So what that means to me is that we’re setting ourselves up for offense and style thing. Not I’m not saying that any of these drugs will kill people. What I’m saying is we’re setting ourselves up to get so attached to this fantasy that even when there’s evidence that the fantasy might not be working out or might not be as safe as we think for everyone, we continue to pursue it.
Aubrey Gordon: The other thing I would say about Mozambique, and we go beyond all of this sort of class of semaglutide is these are medications that were developed for people with type two diabetes to manage their blood sugar. And if you don’t manage your blood sugar and if you don’t have the medication, you need to do that. There are a number of like really alarming long term health impacts of not managing your blood sugar in the way that you need to. And the off label prescribing of semaglutide for weight loss means that there is now a shortage for people who actually have type two diabetes, right? There are so many people trying to get this for weight loss, for purely cosmetic weight loss that people who need it to stay alive and to stay functioning are not able to get their medication. And to me. The facilitation of that from all sides.
Aubrey Gordon: Oh, I’m trying to find a way to soften this, and I can’t. It feels like really morally bankrupt to me to say it’s more important to me that I look the way I imagined looking in a swimsuit than that you have what you need to stay alive. I will say this is also something that has come up around a number of people who are very into tracking their macros. A lot of biohacking bro’s.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. That whole sort of contingent has gotten really into using continuous glucose monitors, which cost a couple hundred bucks for a couple of weeks of use of a continuous glucose monitor. And they are things that people who are type one or type two diabetics generally really need in order to manage their blood sugar. And there is now this whole third rail of people trying to access these medical supplies who don’t actually medically need these supplies. Right. And people who do need them are having a harder time getting them because of the rush on the market for people who just want a diet.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. Functionally just want to diet. They want to build their muscle mass. They want to cut their, you know, body fat or whatever. And again, that there’s not really any reckoning with. Who needs what? For what reasons, right? Diabetic people need the stuff to stay alive in some cases. And people with a great deal of disposable income are buying them, too. You know, look the way they wanted to look. And it feels like we ought to be able to have a conversation about prioritization of those things while we’re getting our supply chain underneath. That’s great. Like, yeah, we got to be able to walk and chew gum a little bit.
Shannon Palus: Especially like for the for the I want to look better in a swimsuit, you know, better and quotation marks. Crowd. Jessica Delfino, who writes about beauty, culture and makeup. She always says that, like, cosmetic surgery is like a physical solution to a psychological problem. So it’s that thing of like, oh, if you if you you know, if you’re feeling bad about your thin body, non plus size body or your body, period, and you wanted to look a different way, like there are other things to do other than this drug that’s, you know, it’s very expensive. It causes like kind of horrific side effects Like there’s a New York magazine article going into into the stuff it does to your body that that unintended stuff. It doesn’t sound fine.
Aubrey Gordon: I’ll tell you what, the very first piece I read about this was, I don’t know, a couple of years ago about Semaglutide, and it was this absolutely glowing gushing piece from a national news outlet. And in the very last paragraph, they said also the study found that as soon as people stopped taking the injection, they regained the weight that they lost and that some. So there was no there was all of this sort of talk about like, is this the solution to the obesity epidemic? Can we finally be rid of fat people? Is sort of the underlying message of all of that kind of stuff, Right? Can we finally stop having fat people around so I don’t have to look at them any more? Right? Like, great, cool. That feels good. But it fully buried the lead that in order for this to be quote unquote effective for weight loss, you have to be on it forever.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. There’s not this is not a thing that gets you to a lower weight in the short term and then keeps you there when you come off it. It is the thing that sort of staves off where your weight currently is for a little bit. And then like anything else, presumably may lead to weight gain in the future. Right. So even when it’s sold just for weight loss, there’s still not really a level of disclosure about like also you have to do it like it only leads to weight loss for as long as you use it. Right.
Shannon Palus: It’s twisted to that. The solution here is more medication. What you make this really good point and I think it’s your chapter on the quote unquote obesity epidemic, that there are diseases that are associated with obesity that we have medicine for and we know how to treat and like, rather than screaming at people to lose weight or to take these really like, you know, I want to I’m about to say like potentially awful meds that like they are meds that people need and take and should feel like. Yes. Fight about taking rather than taking these meds. Like why not just take the meds that address the the underlying issue.
Aubrey Gordon: Well and at a societal level. Right. Like we are spending untold amounts of money and people power and energy on. Quote unquote, fixing or correcting fatness, which is not necessarily in itself a health condition. Right. It is a proxy and a risk factor for other health conditions. But listen, if we’re concerned about diagnosing and treating type two diabetes early, then we need to be concerned about everyone having access to getting their blood work done. Them getting fat doesn’t tell you that they are or are not diabetic. Them getting their A1 C is what tells you whether or not they’re diabetic, right? If we’re concerned about heart disease, there are a number of ways to monitor that. If we’re concerned about joint replacements, there are a number of ways to pay attention to that.
Aubrey Gordon: Right. Like all of these are things that are fixable through other means and fixable without banging our heads against the wall of trying to crack a code that no state or nation or jurisdiction ever has, which is reducing the number of fat people there is aware on the planet that has done that. And we need to like get right with that fact and say, okay, if we’re concerned with people’s health, then let’s address those health concerns directly and not mobilize this like a deep well of anti fat bias and make life harder for fat people.