Published Mar 30, 2023

Dr. B's Weekly Roundup: The Weight Debate

A tan-skinned woman with curly brown hair wearing a blue tank top with a few tattoos on her arm leans out of a window against a green wall.
Published Mar 30, 2023

Welcome to the Dr. B Newsletter, a curated healthcare email that delivers vetted reads on whole-body health. Login anywhere nowadays, and you'll encounter heated debates on injectable weight loss drugs. We’ll throw our two cents into a later newsletter. But this week, we explore other recent weight-related conversations. Here's the latest on fatphobia in film, a myth about thinness that harms French women, and what happens to your body when you stop working out. But first, peruse…

  • The Checkup: staying strong in hard times
  • Weight Debate: film + France + working out
  • Healthcare: Covid, addiction risk, a deadly fungus
  • We Now Treat: fungal infections (not that one ↑)

The Checkup

Fatphobia + The Whale

A color photograph of empty emerald green theater seats.

What is The Whale about? Depends on who you ask.

Screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter and director Darren Aronofsky claim their main character Charlie—a depressed, gay, 600-lb man—humanizes obese people + evokes empathy. Fat film critics disagree. “It's a movie where he literally eats himself to death, and it's portrayed as some sort of metaphor for love and redemption,” Victoria Edel summarizes. Roxane Gay observes, “Mr. Hunter and Mr. Aronofsky considered fatness to be the ultimate human failure, something despicable, to be avoided at all costs.”

Hunter and Aronofsky are thin. So is Brendan Frasier, the recent Oscar-winning actor who donned a fat suit for the role. Critics love Frasier. Even queer, obese actor Daniel Franzese praised him in People before slamming a casting choice that Mollie Quirk calls a “step backward” in representation. Rebecca Bodenheimer points out that the Hollywood people who’ve awarded the team "demonize and balk at fatness." And fat critics now find themselves on the receiving end of anti-fat commenters—the audience members Aronofsky claims to evoke empathy in.

So, whose film are we watching?

“A fat person, even one with a life identical to Charlie’s, could never have made The Whale,” writes Lindy West. “It is fundamentally not of us and therefore incurably untrue.”

French women + weight stigma

A young white woman her hair up in a knot wearing a trench coat and long scarf sits on a bench against a wall of green shrubbery in Paris France.

Women of all sizes dot France from Paris to Provence. But a long-standing myth claims French women don’t get fat. They’re effortlessly thin. They fast the day away + feast nightly on cheese and champagne to wake thin + satisfied the next morning. It’s an unsupported myth that often correlates attraction with wealth + whiteness, too.

In a recent Self article, Iris Goldsztajn tracks the harm it's caused.

Yes, body positivity is slowly gaining ground in France. But anti-fat messaging permeates French media. French girls internalize that fatphobia and start disordered eating habits from a (very) young age. Prioritizing thinness harms women's health. And the stigma doesn’t end when a French woman hops a jet plane.

Read the article for insight + how you can help dispel the lie.

Use it or lose it?

A plus-size, beautiful white woman stands stretching in workout clothes in front of a wall of green trees.

What happens if you stop working out?

Within a few days, lower blood plasma volume slows the flow of oxygen + nutrients to tissues. By day 12, your heart pumps less blood per minute. By week three, energy made by mitochondria for muscle cells drops significantly. By week eight, muscles lose size + strength. The good news? Jump back into moderate or heavy workout sessions and you’ll regain 50% of your peak fitness level in about two weeks. This only applies to those who have always maintained some exercise practice + any activity can delay a decline. So take the stairs, walk your commute or do pushups instead of checking TikTok.

Here’s more.

Healthcare 411

End of Covid emergency will usher in changes across the US health system (KHN). Aside from kicking around 15 million people off of Medicaid, the end of the Covid-19 health emergency will: 1) Reinforce robust training for nursing home workers. This will elevate care but worsen current staffing shortages. 2) Rollback access to a drug instrumental in treating opioid addiction. 3) Remove Medicare + Medicaid exceptions that increased access to care. 4) Remove federal rules for Covid test data in the hopes that superior practices will follow.

New NIH study reveals shared genetic markers underlying substance use disorders (NIH). A study of over 1 million people of European ancestry revealed genetic variation markers for addiction risk. The most significant variations relate to dopamine signaling. This implies that signaling variation is a more significant marker of risk than dopamine signaling itself. The markers can also predict risk for several substance abuse disorders, chronic pain and more. It’s an unprecedented study that could lead to a better understanding of addiction + treatment options.

Deadly fungus spread rapidly during the pandemic, C.D.C says (NY Times). Almost half of older or compromised people who contract candida auris die within 90 days. (From the fungus or because it hastens other illness.) Resistant to medication, it spreads through ventilators + hospital gowns and gloves. With fewer screenings + a gear shortage during the pandemic, it's now present in half of U.S. states. But renewed efforts are containing it + reducing its spread to healthcare settings.

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