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Topic 3 - Would You Rather?

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Old 06-20-2007, 03:55 AM   #1
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Default Topic 3 - Would You Rather?

It seems logical to follow up on our first two topics of unattainably thin body weight ideals and prejudice against obesity with this study about the formerly obese. I have to say that this passage blew my mind when I first read it:

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In one now classic study, Colleen Rand, an obesity researcher at the University of Florida, asked forty-seven formerly fat men and women whether they would rather be obese again or have some other disability. Every one of them said they would rather be deaf or have dyslexia, diabetes, bad acne, or heart disease than be obese again. Ninety-one said they would rather have a leg amputated. Eighty-nine percent would rather be blind. (p 69)
The obvious question is -- how would you answer the question? And why? Why do you think the researcher got the responses she did?

I'm still trying to figure out what I would say.
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Old 06-20-2007, 05:49 AM   #2
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Okay, that one seriously caught my attention as well when I was reading the book. And I thought about it. And thought. And thought some more.

It's a tough one, really. In all honesty, though, I think I would still choose being obese. I just can't push my mind to put weight on the same level as a serious disability, an amputated limb, full-blown diabetes, deafness... at least, not in my case (I got overweight, then borderlined on obesity because of my own bad choices; 10% of it all may be due to genes in my case, the rest is my doin only). And blind? God, no.

Deep in my heart, I admit it, I'm an uncorrigible optimistic, and a person who believes that the power to change our lives comes from us first and foremost, not from external sources. So, no matter how hard it is to lose the weight, it still would be MY choice to do it. Whereas I wouldn't have any choice at all if I was disabled (an artificial limb is never the same, hearing aids are imperfect...). It would be my accomplishment. It would be something I have the power to do, to strive for, the drive to struggle for. It would suck, I'd be angry, despaired, crying, devastated... but less devastated than if I were to be blind.

We all are different in that regard, of course, and I'm aware I'm probably not among the people who have struggled the most with their weight, so I really hope nobody will be offended by this post of mine (probably that to a person who's been morbidly obese to the point of needing, say, respiratory aid, I just come off as the skinny-minny whining that she's 110 pounds instead of 108...).

As for why the researcher got that answer... I'm not sure. I can only hazard guesses. What degree of obesity are we talking about here? Were those people morbidly obese, having struggled with it for 20 years, being really desperate about it? Were they just 'fat' and maybe not exactly weighing (hah, pun not intended) the real implications of their answer? I don't know.

To be even more honest: that would be a very LOUSY choice to have to make, in any case!
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Old 06-20-2007, 06:14 AM   #3
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My answer is again going to be coloured by my believe (still) that if I was obese again, I'd still have the tools to do something about that.

I'm going to harken to Heather/Wyllen again ... how was this question asked? what alternatives were the participants given? have they ever met someone with a disability for which there is no hope of improvement let alone life expectancy?
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Old 06-20-2007, 07:01 AM   #4
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Yes, I've known several people who are/were permanently disabled. I'd be surprised if most people hadn't.

I'd choose fat as well. But like Kery, my experience of fat is overwhelmingly cosmetic. I was never big enough to worry about walking to the bus stop or employability or airline seats. My body got bigger than I'd have liked but it was never big enough to have functional issues in daily life. That probably makes a big difference.
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Old 06-20-2007, 07:12 AM   #5
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I know without one little bit of doubt that I will struggle with my weight till I'm an old, old lady - G-d willling. I do think that at some point I will have to stop worrying about it - like when I'm in my 80's I suppose.

But difficult or not - it IS controllable. I would not prefer heart disease or diabetes and I've grown quite fond of my limbs, so yeah I'd like to keep those around. What I think perhaps I would rather have is an addiction to alcohol or drugs or cigarettes. I think that would have to be easier then dealing with food issues. You know the cold turkey route- and then be DONE with it, for the most part. Food is around us 24/7 and we can't possibly do without it. It's so abundant and it's used in celebrations and social situations. Yes, I would much rather have had those other nasty habits.
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Old 06-20-2007, 09:54 AM   #6
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SusanB -- I've got you thinking like me!! Those are excellent questions!! WHO are the participants and HOW did they ask the questions!! I swear you can ask that about every research study and it helps put it in perspective.

Now, when the evidence mounts and you have similar results from a number of studies using different types of participants and multiple "measurements" you can start to think about whether this evidence is sufficient. One study is never enough!

As for MY answer to the question, I think I would pick obesity, and for many of the reasons above. Maybe "the devil you know" is more attractive, but honestly, amputating a limb sounds like it would significantly and permanently affect my life more than obesity.

But going back to Susan's initial point -- would your answer change if the choice were: a PERMANENT disability or PERMANENT obesity??? Take out the option to change your life, as it were.
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:49 AM   #7
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Even if the question were a permanent disability or permanent obesity, I would choose obesity. But like Kery asked, it depends HOW obese. If I had to go back to 185 for the rest of my life, I would much rather do that than have a disability. Life wasn't that terrible even though I had crossed the borderline from "overweight" to "obese." But if I had to weigh 500lbs and was unable to get out of bed I would have to think harder about it.
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Old 06-20-2007, 12:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paperclippy View Post
Even if the question were a permanent disability or permanent obesity, I would choose obesity. But like Kery asked, it depends HOW obese. If I had to go back to 185 for the rest of my life, I would much rather do that than have a disability. Life wasn't that terrible even though I had crossed the borderline from "overweight" to "obese." But if I had to weigh 500lbs and was unable to get out of bed I would have to think harder about it.
Yeah, and at 500+ I'd likely have diabetes anways and the risk of having a leg amputated and/or blindness as well.

But, I would still rather be at 272 again than having any of those disabilities.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:10 PM   #9
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hmmmm...

Well, this is interesting. Given the questions we had, I decided to try to find the article in question by Colleen Rand. I started by looking in Rethinking Thin, but interestingly enough, Kolata does not list an academic reference, just another article she wrote herself, which, with a little digging, I found here.

That article, published in 1992 in the New York Times, is of no help either and does not cite the original source. All it says regarding that study is "In a recent study of formerly fat people who had lost weight after intestinal bypass surgery, researchers at the University of Florida reported that virtually all said they would rather be blind or deaf or have a leg amputated than be fat again." So, there is a little more info about the participants (they lost weight via gastric bypass), but not a lot.

I have access to academic databases, and have found a number of articles by Colleen Rand, but still have not uncovered this "classic". Rand is now retired from the University of Florida, so the University's website was of no help. I have found a number of references, but none of the abstracts include this info, and don't seem to have the right number of participants. I may keep looking, but Rand herself doesn't seem to cite this earlier article or make reference to these findings.

In other words, the only reference I have been able to find so far regarding this "classic" study, is a reference the author (Kolata) gives for another piece she wrote in which she cited it. In neither place does she provide a citation for the original source, so there is no way to verify the info and answer the kinds of questions Susan B asked!!

I'm a little disturbed by that.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:19 PM   #10
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Interesting. Google lists Colleen Rand's email. Perhaps you might consider contacting her, one academic to another? PM me if you need it.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:21 PM   #11
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Found it! Now, letís see if I can access the actual article. Though, I donít think itís available at my college.

Successful weight loss following obesity surgery and the perceived liability of morbid obesity.
Int J Obes. 1991 Sep;15(9):577-9.
Rand CS, Macgregor AM.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610-0256.


Patients (n = 47) who lost 45 kg (100 lb) or more and who successfully maintained weight loss for at least three years following gastric restrictive surgery for morbid obesity viewed their previous morbidly obese state as having been extremely distressful. In spite of the strong proclivity for people to evaluate their own worst handicap as less disabling than other handicaps, patients said they would prefer to be normal weight with a major handicap (deaf, dyslexic, diabetic, legally blind, very bad acne, heart disease, one leg amputated) than to be morbidly obese. All patients said they would rather be normal weight than a morbidly obese multi-millionaire.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:22 PM   #12
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Meg-- you rock!

If I can't find the article, I'll give her email a try. I can also request the article via interlibrary loan, though that can take up to 2 weeks.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:54 PM   #13
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Heather, I found this also on Medline. The journal is available in Anchorage, and I should be able to get it in a day or two. I'll let you know.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:57 PM   #14
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Oh, and I'd take the obesity, I think, but I'd sure like to know the parameters! If I just had to stay at my highest weight, fine. If it's 500 lbs, hmmm.
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Old 06-20-2007, 03:39 PM   #15
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The obesity vs disability question is very interesting to me because I'm on life time disability for an illness which medicine's caused my obesity.

When I was at my highest weight, I was ok with it because the medicine had stabilized my condition. I was happy that the medicine was working and I was willing to live with the side effect of the weight.

Now that I've had a switch in medicines and have subsequently lost all the weight I had gained on the previous one, of course I am much happier.

But I know that there may come a time when this medicine no longer controls my illness or that its other side effects become too threatening to continue taking.

At that time, I might have to take another medicine that will again affect my weight. If so, I would willingly be obese rather that live with my disability being uncontrolled.
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