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Damn Good Whacking —

February 21, 2013

Dear Prudence,

I recently read some advice you gave to a woman who was concerned about her daughter’s friend, who she thinks eats too much. Her letter and your response came in the form of this video segment that sought to “humorously” illustrate the letter’s contents.

Watching the video raised quite a few questions, but I think I can boil it down to a simple one: What the fuck is wrong with you?

I understand that writing an advice column is hard. You get just the teensiest bit of context from the letter writer, who is obviously presenting their own perspective only, and you have to craft an answer that addresses the problem while bearing in mind the inherent limitations of such a brief correspondence.

By necessity, giving advice to strangers through email is more of an art form than a judicial review. The advice giver may have to make certain assumptions in order to respond properly. But you know what they say about making assumptions, right? It makes an “ass” out of “you.”

Just you.

I have transcribed both the original letter and your response, as well as taken screen caps of the animation that your team so helpfully created to illustrate the disturbing nature of the situation. My responses will be in bold green.

Dear Prudence,

Dear Prudence

Carrot Lady versus the Very Flexible Fat Lady

The other day, I needed to grab lunch on the run for my first grade daughter and her friend. Can you feel the justification set-up?

Two Kids

Guess which one is Carrot Lady’s daughter.

We pulled into a fast food place, where my daughter ordered a kid’s burger and fries. We have achieved maximum justification. I repeat, we have achieved maximum justification.

Uncle Fattys

They caught wind of our new fast food franchise.

Her friend requested the 20-count chicken nugget meal. Bullshit Alert #1: Correct me if I’m wrong, but McDonald’s does not offer a 20-piece nugget “meal.” There’s a 10-piece meal, but I’m pretty sure the 20-piece is sold by itself. Seems odd the letter writer would add this minor detail. 

Nuggets

I’m shocked the 20-piece meal
doesn’t come in a trough.

I said no, so she ordered a kids meal, but wasn’t happy about it. At dinner, she ordered from the children’s menu. You mean, she didn’t order from the “Disgusting Pig Children’s  Menu”?

Chez Glutton

First McDonald’s, now Chez Glutton?
Who’s really at fault here?

When the waiter brought an enormous plate of food, enough for two adults… Bullshit Alert #2: With three kids, I’ve seen my fair share of kid’s menus, and I can’t think of any instances where there’s been a meal that could feed two adults, unless those adults have recently had weight loss surgery and can only eat a cup of oatmeal for dinner. At this point, I’m starting suspect that the letter was written by somebody who has never eaten at McDonald’s or ordered a kids meal in her life. In other words, a staged advice letter. 

Child's Menu

They forgot the kitchen sink.

… the child scarfed it down and then complained that she was still hungry, and wanted another meal. Her parents allow her to eat this way. And since Carrot Lady keeps a meticulous food log of all her child’s friends, she knows best.

Tub of Goo

Slate got their crack team of junior high
illustrators to nail this artist’s rendition.

I’ve tried gently starting a conversation with her mom, but she shut me down. Perspective is everything. One concern troll’s “gentle” is another’s intrusive nagging. 

Chop-Chop

Click to watch Carrot Lady get sliced and diced.
Oh, and to see Lardy Mama undulate.

She says that she wants her kids to focus on who they are inside, not what they look like. Bullshit Alert #3: This may be my favorite Straw Fatty of all time. It’s the anti-fatty assumption of what Fat Acceptance (FA) means. This Straw Fatty says that our pwecious fee fees are more important than our health, so gorge away! Except body image and health are two distinct and separate issues. EVERYONE has body image issues, although the self-worth of fatties are constantly under assault [see obnoxious Dear Prudence video for Exhibit A]. But when it comes to health, many of us promote Health at Every Size®, which teaches that if you want to be healthy, eat healthy foods, get the recommended amount of exercise and improve your body image. You see how the whole body image thing is just one part of HAES? But anti-fatties take this one fragment and make it the central argument of FA and HAES. But even setting aside my own assumption that Lardy Mama is citing FA/HAES philosophies, we’d also have to assume that she gives zero fucks about her daughter’s health, since Carrot Lady tells us that she essentially eats 20-piece McNugget meals all day, every day, which is Unhealthy at Every Size®.   

Teet Weaning

Fat positive body image = suckling mama pig’s teat

Her daughter’s chubby now, but quickly eating her way to obesity, just like her parents and siblings. Hey, I remember that song, “I’ll be eating my way to obesity/with a buttered scone inside.”

Fat Family

Wait, is that the Uncle Fatty in the background?

I don’t want to be the food police… Yes you do. You want the hat, the badge and a license to slap french fries from the hands of fatties.

Food Police

Living the dream.

… but when this child is with me, should I allow her to eat the way she eats at home? Feed bag and everything?

Wide Eyed Gluttony

Disgusting Pig Girl will swallow your soul.

Signed,
Carrots and Celery
A truly unpleasant person.

Carrots and Celery

She’s steamed… get it!?!

That’s a whole lot of terrible packed into a teeny, tiny video. You’ve got the bizarre, self-righteous letter, and you’ve got the hate-packed video to drive home the point (just in case the letter wasn’t straight-forward enough) that this little girl is a repulsive, gluttonous swine who must be stopped at any cost.

Now, if I were you and I had to answer this letter, I would respond to Carrot Lady by passing along the wisdom of nutritionist Ellyn Satter, who I interviewed a while back. You can read about Satter’s method in her awesome book, Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming. But to summarize, you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to control a child’s appetite. Every child approaches eating differently, including how much it takes to satisfy their hunger.

So if you’re concerned about your child’s health (or someone else’s) rather than wag your celery fingers at them, just try to provide them with healthy meals and let the child decide how much of it to eat. Don’t treat the fat kid differently than the thin kid, and don’t mistake a big appetite for unhealthy behavior.

Because here’s the thing: when a parent tries to control a child’s appetite, the outcome is virtually guaranteed: that kid will begin sneaking food in an effort to satisfy the hunger that is still there, regardless of whether you force them to stop eating or not. So, you can either teach your kid to eat a healthy, balanced diet, or you can shame them into sneaking food. Those are your only real options, if you’re concerned about health.

So, what do you advise, Prudence? Here’s your response.

Oh What an Asshole

Oooooooooh what an asshole am I!

Unfortunately, what’s going to be going on inside this little girl eventually is going to be broken down joints, a failing pancreas and clogged arteries. So Sayeth Dr. Prudence the Prognosticating Pediatrician! How sad that parents who are struggling with their own obesity wouldn’t do everything in their power to prevent their children from experiencing it. Because clearly her parents are “struggling with obesity” based on Carrot Lady’s description. Instead, they seem to feel the more of them, the merrier. Well, fat people are jolly, so more of us does mean more mall Santa’s, amirite? I think it’s totally fine for you to model proper eating and portion size. And to cluck your tongue disapprovingly at Bite Number 30, which is when all good, little kids place their forks gently on the table and say “I have been satiated, mummy.” But please, if you do so, skip the fast food restaurants and invite this girl over for dinner at the dining room table and a home-cooked meal. She prolly ain’t never had one ‘a them there home-cooked meals never, unless’n you count Spamburger Sundays. And given that the parents seem committed to super-sizing her, I think it would be fair for you to contact this girl’s pediatrician. And maybe her teachers, grandparents, and priest as well. In fact, make a list of all your child’s friend’s community leaders so that you can send progress reports on a quarterly basis.  You can send an anonymous letter, and describe the compulsive eating. If you can record videos of the child being a gluttonous sloth, all the better. It might be helpful for an adult with authority to intervene. Call 911 if necessary. They love answering shit like this.

It’s clear from this video that you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to speak your mind on these awful, horrible fatties who are fatting up their kids, and this country, with their disgusting pig children. And you certainly gave Lardy Mama what for.

It’s odd, though; based on a very limited description of the offending family involved, you sure are quick to diagnose “broken down joints.” It seems as though you’re picturing her parents as headless fatties.

Headless Fatty

Lardy Mama Prototype #8,334,843

Just about 6% of the population is morbidly obese (BMI of 40+), while less than one-half of 1% of the population have a BMI over 50 (aka Biggest Loser size). Could it be that Carrot Lady’s definition of the “obese” family isn’t quite “broken down joints” fat? I mean, we are relying on this second-hand account about this family’s weight and health. Shouldn’t we err on the side of caution?

Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

After all, thin people know best what a healthy weight looks like. Just ask Emily Yoffe, who writes the delightful Human Guinea Pig column for Slate, have you heard of her?

You see, Yoffe knows about the scourge of obesity first hand. You see, she is fat. Very fat.

I never got in bathing-suit shape (unless the suit is the Speedo LZR Racer) — the blubber content of my stomach could be used to prove that humans once shared a common ancestor with cetaceans, and I still avoid three-way mirrors

Holy shit, this woman’s fat. And when she spent four months lifting weights for a story on building muscle, she was brave enough to reveal her grotesque proportions.

She started our session with both the dreaded tape measure and by pinching my flab with calipers. “We’re figuring out the measurements of your old body,” she explained. I liked the optimism behind that statement. I was just temporarily stuck in this decaying thing, and soon I would be walking around in my new, better body. My old body was depressingly tubelike: 35 inches, 28 inches, 37½ inches.

Wow, just picturing a woman with those measurements has triggered a surge of bile up my throat. In another post, Yoffe  gave informs us that she is 5’3.5″ and weighs 125 pounds, which gives her a BMI of 21.8, or the low end of the the “normal” weight category, which runs from 18.6 to 25.

Talk about a Tub ‘o Lard! Prudence, I hope you can reach out to your colleague Emily and “model proper eating and portion control” because she’s a fata —

Wait a second… I just noticed something.

Hey, it turns out, Prudence is a pseudonym for Emily Yoffe. Emily Yoffe is both the Flabmonster and the Dear Prudence? How can this be? How can she simultaneously chide herself for being such a lazy, disgusting slob AND lecture other people on how to “model proper eating and portion control”?

Oh, that’s right, body dysmorphia doesn’t stop you from being an asshole, it just makes your advice sound like it’s coming from a House of Mirrors.

Woman Standing at Fun House Mirror

“Dear Prudence, I have a friend with a tiny head…”

Health is a complicated issue and it won’t be resolved by some hack advice columnist with an axe to grind against fat people. Resorting to stereotypes and juvenile videos that dehumanize and degrade this little girl and her family won’t help. In fact, if I had one piece of advice for you, Prudence/Emily, it would be to shut the fuck up about this issue because you’re embarrassing yourself.

Signed,
Furious Fatty

p.s. If any of our readers would like to let Slate know what you think about Prudence’s “advice,” you can contact Sarah Trankle with the New York editors at 212 445 5330 or nyoffice@slate.com.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Jonassen permalink
    February 21, 2013 3:31 pm

    thank you for taking the time to do this! i didnt want to share that link but wanted nonetheless to be able to show people wtf i was ranting about. i posted on their page under my size acceptance account and followed up by email.

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    February 21, 2013 3:39 pm

    “I think it would be fair for you to contact this girl’s pediatrician”???????? What world does this woman live in? You do not contact doctors — how do you even know who her pediatrician is? — except for your own family. Any doctor worth her salt would tell you you have no standing regarding a friend of your daughter’s. Send an anonymous letter? Why not just go to work for the old East German domestic spying agency? Is this really what we have come to in our obsessive hatred of food and fat?

    • February 21, 2013 4:46 pm

      Yes how horrible that a mother care about another person’s child not becoming a walking health alert. I was the little girl in that video many years ago and I have difficulties to this day with both weight and health. So, no, sorry, I think you’re an abrasive fatvocate who just saw an excuse to get riled up. Pathetic. Hit the gym.

      • February 21, 2013 5:08 pm

        Hi Jessica, welcome to Fierce Fatties. Thanks for representing hateful concern trolls everywhere and assuming we don’t go to the gym. Did you actually read what I wrote? To be healthy, eat healthy food and exercise. What part of that don’t you understand?

        Peace,
        Shannon

      • February 21, 2013 5:15 pm

        By the way, don’t worry about responding. I know it took all your free brain cells just to come up with your “fatvocate” portmanteau. Rest those suckers for a while, you’re gonna need ’em for your next brilliant comment.

        Peace,
        Shannon

      • Mulberry permalink
        February 21, 2013 11:13 pm

        Dammit, Jessica, would you want to be portrayed as a literal pig in an internet video?
        I’ve never had as many difficulties with weight as I’ve had with other people’s opinions about my weight.

      • Fab@54 permalink
        February 22, 2013 8:25 am

        I just clicked on “Jessica Streeter’s” name and was whisked away to her black, bleak, and berating blog.
        My my my….. how sad to be so steeped in self-loathing and publicly self abusive. No, I really mean that – it’s very sad.

        Learn to love yourself, “Jessica”. Learn to feel worthy and loveable and deserving of respect, regardless if you are ‘fat’ or thin. Oh, and learn to treat others the same way, regardless of THEIR size…

        And by all means EAT HEALTHY & BE HEALTHY.
        But let your doctor and his/her blood work, exams and tests determine your *actual* health status – not the mirror and the size tag on your newest hair-shirt…..

        • Kala permalink
          February 23, 2013 9:44 pm

          You could really do a write-up on some of that woman’s blog posts. She’s so laden with hate for herself, and blogs about disordered eating. Dieting isn’t going to fix her issues, therapy and HAES might.

      • The Real Cie permalink
        February 22, 2013 4:38 pm

        Check yourself before you wreck yourself, Jessie-poo.
        My fat ass hit the gym just last night.
        Making ass-umptions about other people’s health, eating, or fitness habits tends to make an ass out of you.

  3. Duckie permalink
    February 21, 2013 5:02 pm

    “Oh, that’s right, body dysmorphia doesn’t stop you from being an asshole, it just makes your advice sound like it’s coming from a House of Mirrors.”

    brilliant visual!

  4. Judgement for your lack of information permalink
    February 21, 2013 5:58 pm

    There is a 20 piece meal. It’s just not on the regular menu. You ask for a 20 piece meal and you get the 20 piece, fries, a drink, and the discount, same as any other meal.

    I’m not positive all McDonalds have it, but I can tell you with 100% certainty some offer a 20 piece meal.

  5. The Real Cie permalink
    February 22, 2013 3:24 am

    I’m tired, so I’ll just leave it at this. Your response was so much more entertaining than Sanctimonious Asshat Prudie’s.

  6. violetyoshi permalink
    February 22, 2013 4:33 am

    That video is no different than the Jim Jones caricatures they used in the days of segregation. Also pig children, really. Hey let’s psychologically abuse children for their health! She should be fired, causing children to think they’ll turn into pigs and no one will love them. I hope she visits a pediatric eating disorders ward and sees what her efforts bring to fruition.

  7. February 22, 2013 8:19 am

    All I was able to muster when I saw that was a shocked and sputtering FUCK YOU, LADY!!! So, I am super glad you wrote this. I was serious hoping for Prudie to do a MYOB. Alas, her response was WORSE than a Dear Abby.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 22, 2013 4:40 pm

      Shannon always does such a good job. I’d go off on a wild rant that would be something along the lines of “you’re an asshat and you suck. And you really suck! And you’re really an asshat! Yeah!” I’m no good at keeping it logical.

  8. queenie permalink
    February 22, 2013 10:15 am

    Right, by all means contact her pediatrician, who has almost certainly failed to notice that this child and her entire family are proportioned like hippos, and if she did notice it, didn’t, you know, discuss it with them or anything. Yup, that’s a pretty useful strategy.

    The only part of Prudie’s advice I didn’t think was bizarre was the part about WTF with the drive thru in the first place? If you are going to be all sanctimonious ‘n shit, how’s about you all sit down at the table and eat real food you cooked yourself? Steamed green beans for everyone!

  9. pearlsong1728 permalink
    February 22, 2013 2:42 pm

    Just emailed the following to the slate address given above:

    After reading about and viewing the horrifying “Girl with an Endless Appetite” Dear Prudence video at slate.com, I tried to ascertain the author’s credentials in order to determine to which professional licensing or ethics board she should be reported, since the video portrays her in an office as if she is an expert of some kind. Your website indicates Emily Yoffe is a “regular contributor” to Slate but mentions no professional credentials. Is that correct? She is simply a writer/journalist?

    I notice Slate has now posted an update apologizing for posting the video, claiming it was an attempt at satire which misfired. I guess it’s too much to hope that the video creators actually understand what was so offensive about their depiction of a child and her parents as pigs and tubs of lard.

    Even without the demeaning and offensive images, Prudence’s advice was inappropriate and harmful. Is the column not edited or vetted?

    I am very disappointed in Slate.

    Sincerely,

    Peggy Elam, Ph.D.
    Clinical & Consulting Psychologist
    Publisher, Pearlsong Press

  10. pearlsong1728 permalink
    February 22, 2013 3:04 pm

    Just emailed the following to the communications assistant/contact at Yale’s Rudd Center:

    Dear Ms. Orcia

    The Rudd Center’s experts in weight stigma might want to know about a horrifying cartoon video at slate.com in which a child and her parents are depicted as pigs and tubs of lard, and an advice columnist gives inappropriate and potentially harmful advice in a response to a question about her daughter’s fat friend and fat parents.

    Shannon Russell at the blog Fierce, Freethinking Fatties has posted extensively about the video (with screenshots) and Dear Prudence’s advice at [URL].

    The video can be seen directly here: [URL] .

    I was so disturbed by Russell’s blog post and the video itself that I searched Slate.com for the advice columnist’s credentials, thinking of reporting her to a licensing or ethics board. She is presented in an office, as if she is an expert of some kind. I saw no mention of credentials other than that she is a frequent contributor to Slate.com. I’ve written Slate for clarification, as well as to express my disappointment (to put it lightly) in their presenting such a demeaning and offensive video.

    Slate now has an update stating the video was an attempt at satire that misfired and apologizing “to all it offended” …..but the video is still up.

    Sincerely,

    Peggy Elam, Ph.D.
    Clinical & Consulting Psychologist
    Publisher, Pearlsong Press

  11. lifeonfats permalink
    February 22, 2013 4:46 pm

    Proof once that more that some people are not cut out to be advice columnists or journalists. Methinks Prudence Yoffe needs to find a new line of work and fast.

  12. Happy Spider permalink
    February 22, 2013 10:38 pm

    So, apparently she’s not a great believer in “being hospitable to guests” or “being kind to others”. If that’s how she treats other people’s children she must be a real joy to her own kids, the poor things.

  13. Elizabeth permalink
    February 23, 2013 12:22 pm

    Thank you to all the people who replied to Jessica. I think Jessica needs to hit the compassion development room; her health might improve. I’m one of those people who thinks if you don’t use your heart — e.g., caring that other people not be bullied and dehumanized — you’ll get heart disease.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 24, 2013 3:04 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head! 🙂

  14. Kerasi permalink
    February 28, 2013 9:46 am

    There is a 20-piece meal, all McDonald’s have it, and it’s a disgustingly delicious thing to eat when you’re ravenous; although I will admit, it’s A LOT of food, and you’re usually REALLY full by the time you eat the nuggets. However, if the kid wanted a damn 20-piece nugget, whether to eat all of it then, later, or to stick up her butt, it’s none of her business. I think she was just mad that she had to pay for it.

  15. March 6, 2013 6:51 pm

    You know, some of that animation looks kind of familiar…
    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=active&rls=com.microsoft%3Aen-us%3AIE-Address&biw=1366&bih=662&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=picaninny&oq=picaninny&gs_l=img.3..0l5j0i10i24j0i24l2j0i10i24l2.31647.40425.0.40770.11.10.1.0.0.0.242.1395.1j8j1.10.0…0.0…1c.1.5.img.4delZ2fbnMI

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