My bear’s workplace has started a health contest as some sort of education/motivation/happiness mash-up. People are put into teams. Everybody gets a little scorecard that lists a variety of healthy behaviors, and each behavior has a point value attached. Every day, you record your total points and the total points for your group. At the end of the contest, there will be group prizes for the highest-scoring group, individual prizes for the highest-scoring individuals, and individual prizes for the people who managed to make the biggest sustained and positive change in their point value. The points are assigned for actually healthy things with realistic and incremental effects. You get points for eating five servings of fruits and vegetables. You get points for taking a walk. You get points for a full night’s sleep. There aren’t negative points – nobody gets penalized for eating a cookie.
From what my bear says, this has actually inspired some neat changes in the workplace. Suddenly, people who used to bring in frozen meals or go out for lunch are swapping recipes in the breakroom, or making collaborative stews that simmer in a crockpot all morning. People are reading labels and talking about vitamins and fiber. A juicer has shown up next to the coffee machine, and people are stocking the fridge with communal fruit (my bear, ever the individualist, eschewed the fruit and DRANK A FUCKING ONION. His conclusion: nasty-ass shit cleared up his allergies for DAYS). A little group has instituted a lunch powerwalk in the wooded area near the office. People are biking to work.
Somebody at his job has a friend who has just recently gotten whatever degree you need to get to be a nutritionist. To get practice, the nutritionist volunteered to come in and set up shop in the breakroom, teaching people about portion sizes and creating a meal plan and yadda yadda. So my bear wanders into the breakroom one day to see her setting a big doughy pile on a table. “What’s that?” he asks her. “That…” she says with a practiced snake oil sheen. “That is five pounds of fat.”
Bear picked up the offending mass and looked it over. “Oh,” he said, finding the label. “It’s vinyl.”
“Yes,” the nutritionist said, “but not really. It’s the equivalent of five pounds of fat.”
Bear found a place on his body where he is pretty sure there is more chunkerbutt than five pounds and held up the hunk of beige vinyl. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess this is flattened out when it’s in a body, but this is about the size of my torso. Three of these would make up my entire body.”
“Well,” the nutritionist said, “you could weigh it and see if it’s five pounds.”
“I could weigh it,” Bear said, “and it might be five pounds. But that would be five pounds of vinyl.”
“Yes, but it’s five pounds of fat.”
“Made out of vinyl.”
“It’s meant to represent five pounds of fat.”
“Is vinyl the same mass as fat?” Bear was willing to believe this – he does not know what the mass of vinyl or fat is.
“Well, that was made so it would be an accurate representation of five pounds of fat.”
“So vinyl is the same mass as fat.”
“It’s an accurate representation.”
“So vinyl isn’t the same mass as fat.”
“That’s what five pounds of fat looks like”
Some other people came into the room and started making, “OHHHHH! DISGUSTING!” noises at the fat mass. The nutritionist preened at finally getting the proper reaction. Bear decided to stop arguing. He’s often been the lone guy having a feminist meltdown at work, and just didn’t feel like being Fat Guy vs. Everybody Else’s Fat Shame today. He also figured, this is just what they taught this nutritionist; she’s parroting back the shame she’s supposed to ladle out about the DISGUSTING MASS OF VINYL in your fat, fat body, and she thinks that’s a healthy thing to do. Though, as he pointed out later to me, one would hope that a person smart enough to acquire a degree is somebody smart enough to apply critical thinking, and one would hope critical thinking would include a basic understanding of mass and volume.
Instead, Bear got out a post-it and wrote down the name of the manufacturer and the product number. When he got home, he googled them up. Sure enough, he found the FIVE POUNDS OF FAT “educational” tool, along with a FIVE POUNDS OF MUSCLE product that was, from what he could view, a much more reasonable hunk of vinyl. He pulled the two products up in separate tabs to compare the product specs. Can you guess what he found? I am betting, with your critical thinking skills, that you can:
FIVE POUNDS OF FAT: Approximate shape and weight of five pounds of fat.
FIVE POUNDS OF MUSCLE: Exact shape and weight of five pounds of muscle.
This is not to say I really believe the muscle hunk is exact – the business that sells LOOK LOOK AT YOUR DISGUSTING BODY tools does not seem to be a business that employs a rigorous scientific principle. I’d be just as willing to bet that the muscle hunk was toned down significantly, so no enterprising fatty could get it in their heads that they could possibly be large AND healthy, for god’s sake.
In the space of the day, Bear met one individual (let’s set her intentions aside) and one business that wanted nothing more than to make a living off stoking his self-hatred into pathological levels, unmoored by the basic physics of reality. Make no mistakes about it: fat hate is profitable, it is an industry floating atop tears of shame and butter. If you wonder why America is suddenly in a terror about the VINYL EPIDEMIC, follow the goddamn vinyl money.