I am filled with nuclear waste!

Or I guess I should say WAIST!  Get it?  (by the way, Toxic Waist would be an awesome name for an all-fat-people rock band.)

In case you didn’t know, I’m a sexual health educator.  I love my job a lot–for over a year, every time someone’s asked me what my dream job is I’ve said I’m already doing it.  I also kinda love that I’m a fat person doing my job because I totally think fat acceptance is a reproductive justice issue*.

Today I went to order some supplies from a website that supplies health educators with all kinds of teaching tools.  DVDs, CPR training dummies, breast/testicular self-exam models (so people can feel for themselves what a lump might feel like in themselves or a partner; also what I happened to be purchasing today), some other stuff, and THIS TOTALLY AWESOME THING:


Finally, a literal interpretation of how fat is going to kill us all!

If you can’t view the image, it’s a screencap of the product information about an “educational” display that consists of a barrel of fake fat, meant to look like a barrel of nuclear waste.  “Everyone stand back!  This stuff can kill you!  Slimy yellow fat bubbles up over the top of this ‘hazardous materials’ barrel reminding viewers that excess body fat can be toxic to their health.  Representing approximately 40 pounds of fat by volume, this unforgettable display helps people understand that diet and exercise are the best methods of disposal.  Actually weighs less than 6 pounds.  Comes with presentation guide.”

LOL.  WTF.   etc.

I’ve seen disembodied blobs of fat at countless health fairs, and I always just roll my eyes because I generally don’t have the emotional energy to actually talk to someone about it.  At a local health fair a couple of months ago, there was a blob of disembodied fat AND an Herbalife (some kind of weight loss thing involving shakes or something) display!  Not just a regular-sized table like everyone else had, a huge-ass ordeal (pun totally intended).**

Anyway, while I see the fat blobs at health fairs all the time, I’ve never seen this particular display.  Maybe because it’s $132, or maybe because even the health educators who talk about the fat panic as part of their jobs realize that it’s dehumanizing and preposterous.

For reals, though, this kind of “educational” display is ridiculous.  The disembodied blob of “slimy yellow fat,” the implication that fat people in immediate danger of death by their own bodies, the comparison of fat to toxic waste (oh, and did you notice that play on words?  Hazardous WAIST!  Instead of waste!  Ha ha!  How clever!).

It’s almost like a freakin’ parody of obesity epidemic scare tactics.  In fact, it would be pretty damn hilarious if it didn’t actually exist in the world.

*Post re: FA as a RJ issue forthcoming.

**Do you ever think of the perfect comeback about two minutes too late?  Well, I decided after being offered a sample of an Herbalife shake (smoothie?  drink?  some kind of liquid supplement) that my comeback to “[hey, try this diet thing]” will be, whenever I get an opportunity to use it, “Sorry, diet gimmicks give me the shits.”

August 25, 2011. Uncategorized.


  1. Mulberry replied:

    So fat is valued at $3.30 a pound? Gee, why would anyone pay to lose weight when they could make a modest profit selling their fat?

  2. Emerald replied:

    If this isn’t TMI, I see a fair amount of fat that comes with the specimens I see in the pathology lab where I work. It is indeed an extraordinarily bright and, I think, rather beautiful yellow. (Lots of things inside the human body are more colorful than you’d think.) And it has a lot of important functions, so I think people who depict it as icky and dangerous in this way are rather missing the point.

  3. Jessica replied:

    Wow can you imagine being a fat student in a class where this vile thing was displayed? Having to look at it or keep from looking at it every day while feeling like the rest of the class is now considering you toxic to even their health. I think what gets me most is the gleeful, joking tone of the product description, like anything about this could be funny (unless it were a parody, like you said, in which case I agree that would be great). It’s subtly othering and the wording insinuates a lot of awful things. I noticed it says “this stuff can kill you” rather than “this stuff can kill you if you’re carrying it around on your body”, and explicitly warns *everyone* to stay away from it. The obvious conclusion is that fat in any form is a direct threat to you and your health, whether it’s your own body fat or someone else’s. Fat people are the enemy! They are toxic not only to themselves but to YOU as a perfectly healthy thin person! The other thing that bothered me is that it says, “this unforgettable display helps people understand that diet and exercise are the best methods of disposal.” Umm? Nothing about a barrel of fat marked as toxic waste communicates anything to me about diet and exercise, and I certainly can’t see how it would help people understand them as the best methods of “disposal.” I rather think this display communicates that the best method of disposal is to siphon it out of their bodies and into toxic waste barrels that will then be buried far underground where they pose no threat to society as we know it.

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