"What's the key to tackling obesity? Fine fat people if they don't exercise, say experts," shouted a headline in The Daily Mail on Tuesday.

Photo by Anthony Hyatt/U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons.


"FINE fat people if they don't exercise," is actually what it said. With "FINE" in all caps. When The Daily Mail yells, you better believe it yells.

But, um. Fine people for being fat? Like, charge them actual money? Seriously? This is a thing? Why?

The righteous declaration was based on the results of a single study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which looked at 281 people who had BMIs over 27 (around 27 is considered "overweight" on the Body Mass Index scale, although the actual usefulness of BMI as a measure of how fat or not fat someone is has been a source of much controversy). The researchers rewarded people in one group with $1.40 per day if they met a set goal of 7,000 steps. They gave people in the other group $42 up front, but docked them $1.40 per day if they didn't meet the goal.

Sure enough, the people in the group that was being fined met their step goal more frequently.

As a fat person who likes keeping all my money as opposed to forking an arbitrary percentage of it over to judgmental scientists, this didn't really sit right with me. So I did some digging to prove this idea is, in fact, as ridiculous as it seems.

Spoiler alert: It didn't take much digging.

1. The whole premise of the study rests on a really shaky assumption.

A money fan. Photo by Steven Depolo/Flickr.

Researchers tested their monetary loss/reward hypothesis specifically on fat people. And it's not surprising it worked! It's pretty well-established in psychological research that people are typically more motivated by fear of loss than possibility of reward. And, fat people are, of course, people.

The problem is that this particular experimental setup assumes that "obesity" is the opposite of exercise. Which is a bit like saying that going to a French restaurant is the opposite of going to a Mexican restaurant, or that kayaking is the opposite snorkeling, or that watching "The Bachelor" is the opposite of hitting yourself repeatedly in the head with a small hammer. The things are kinda-sorta related, but actually not directly opposed. You can do/be both!

It's hard to blame the experts for framing the study that way. The assumption that fat people are people who don't exercise and that people who exercise aren't fat is super-double-plus-infinity ingrained in our culture.

But that's not actually true.

2. Exercising doesn’t necessarily make people lose weight.

"With obesity levels reaching epidemic proportions. Global experts in the field are focused on one goal — reversing the trend. Key to the battle is encouraging people who are overweight or obese to exercise more." That's how The Daily Mail frames the study. Exercise more, shed pounds.

To that I say: This is Prince Fielder.

Prince Fielder. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

He's a professional baseball player. Not just any professional baseball player — a really, really good professional baseball player. One of the best, even. In order to be such a good baseball player, he has to exercise virtually every second of every day. He's constantly in the gym. He runs wind sprints after batting practice. He has to do that high knee thing.

If exercising reliably made people skinny, Prince Fielder's torso would look more like Trey Songz's torso.

Trey Songz x 2 = Prince Fielder. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

But he doesn't. He's fat. Which is not surprising! And not a bad thing! Lots of researchers believe that exercise has little to nothing to do with weight loss.

"A lot of people probably think I'm not athletic or don't even try to work out or whatever, but I do," Fielder told ESPN in 2014. "Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn't mean you're going to have a 12-pack."

"OK," you're probably yelling at your screen, "But that's just one guy! I am a casually professional statistician, and that is what we in the stats biz like to call an 'outlier.' Little statistics jargon for ya. Like what I did there? "

To which I say: Fine. Exhibit B, suckers.

Take a gander at Cecil Fielder.

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Back in the '90s, he was one of the best baseball players alive. He hit over 300 home runs in his career, including 51 in 1990. He can probably lift three of you. And he was also fat.

He also happens to be Prince Fielder's dad.

What are the odds? Two men in the same family — a father and son! — both athletes who, when at the top of their game, were better than basically any of their peers, who also happen to both be fat.

It's almost as if how fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes (and environmental factors) than with the fact that you're a lazy bum who just lacks willpower and doesn't deserve respect or even love.

3. You can be fat and in good shape.

The premise of the study presumes the need to force fat people to do more physical activity. But not only is it completely possible to be fat and not in bad shape, it's possible to be fat and actively in good shape. Really good shape, even.

Like Mirna Valerio.

Photo by Mirna Valerio, used with permission.

She's fat. She runs ultramarathons. Ultramarathons are like marathons, but longer, and for people who are so physically superior to the rest of humanity, they think regular marathons are too easy.

There are fat people who are amazing at yoga. Fat people who kill it in endurance events. Fat people who pole dance (That takes work! You try that shit). Fat people who could beat you in any contest of physical supremacy known to man while still being undeniably, incontrovertibly fat.

Also, remember Richard Simmons?

Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images.

He was in amazing shape. Dude was in such good shape he got paid millions of dollars to yell at other people to get in shape. And he was kind of fat.

(Side note: Remember when the mere fact of Richard Simmons' existence was a joke that people would laugh at? Just "Richard Simmons!" That was the whole joke. That was all the work you needed to do. Because he was sorta fat and seemed gay? People 25 years ago were so dark!)

4. Who’s going to enforce this fat person fine and how?

Sir, please step out of the vehicle. I need to jiggle your tummy. Photo by Lennart Preiss/Getty Images.

OK, so let's say we take the conclusion of the study at face value and we start fining fat people. Who serves the fat people fines in this scenario anyway? Doctors? Personal trainers? Will cops start pulling fat people over on the street? What if a fat person is driving a car instead of jogging? That's not physical activity! Can you be pulled over for driving while fat? What if the fat person is riding a Segway? A fat person on a Segway! Is that exercise? Are enough muscles engaged? Some poor state legislator will have to miss his daughter's T-ball game to stay late at the office in order to game out the precise policy and legal status of a fat person riding a Segway.

It would be chaos! Bureaucracy will explode! Your taxes will go up!

But I'll give the paper the benefit of the doubt. The Daily Mail is published in the U.K., and the laws are different over there. Maybe they've figured out an easy way to go about this. “We’ll just bobby the carriage on the loo!” the Nottingham North MP might be saying right now.

And that's great. Perfect, even. Perfect British solution. Don't understand it, but maybe they know what they're doing.

Next question, though:

5. Let's back up even a little further. Who decides who is fat and eligible for a fine in the first place?

Your Aunt Caroline. Photo via iStock.

Is it your Aunt Caroline? Because it doesn't matter how skinny you get, she still thinks you're fat. (Except when you're truly fat. Then she thinks you've lost weight.)

6. Is this another thing that's for "our own good?" 'Cause lots of people like being fat and/or really don’t give a shit about how much they weigh.

Barney Frank, patron saint of not giving a shit. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Former congressman Barney Frank once quipped, "The day I die, I will either be fat or hungry." It's a sentiment that a lot of fat people relate to. Which makes a lot of sense, as life is finite and food is delicious! So even if you do care about how much other people weigh or how much you weigh, there's a good chance that other people don't and they really aren't all that interested in inane policy solutions to their non-problems.

7. And by the say, that study the Daily Mail was citing? It wasn't as conclusive as the article makes it seem.

All studies, even psychology studies, happen in test tubes. Photo by National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons.

The researchers were actually measuring two things with the study — whether participants in the "fine" group would achieve their step goal more frequently and whether the fines would lead to participants taking more steps. The group that was being fined did meet their goal on more of the days, but their average number of steps didn't increase by a statistically significant amount over the required baseline.

You'll also notice that participants weren't really "fined," per se. They were rewarded in advance and docked portions of their reward for not meeting the goal. Which is less like paying a fine, and more like ... paying taxes. Which everyone loves to do and is no problem at all. Ever. Right?

8. Why does anyone care how much other people weigh?

Undoubtedly, there are many people in this world who are both fat and don't exercise. You might think this is unjust. You might experience a surge of anger at this thought. You might have half a mind to burst into the apartment where the fat and lazy people live (we all room together) and shove a bag of celery down their throats. You're just so mad!

"You! Stop it you! Stop being fat!" Photo by PourquoiPas/Pixabay.

It's an interesting outlook, and it raises a critical question...

Why?

Why do you give a shit?

Don't you think it's weird to care about what another human being weighs. I mean, when you think about it? Are you trying to distract yourself from something? Are you bored? Do you need an activity? What about skiing? I went skiing last February with my old boss, and it was actually pretty fun!

Of course, I'm fat and don't exercise, so I was pretty much done after 90 minutes, but you'll definitely do better.

9. Really?

Just, like, really? Fining fat people? This is a serious suggestion?

GIF from "Saturday Night Live."

10. How about we all just STFU about how much other people weigh.

Basically, the best way to get fat people to lose weight is to STFU and mind your own business. It may or may not actually have your desired effect, but it will help you not lose friendships and/or get punched in the face by people who already know they are fat and don't need you telling them that's a bad thing (which is not only unbelievably annoying and rude, it actually does not work to make people not fat anymore).

In conclusion, regardless of whether or not they exercise, don't fine fat people.

In special extra conclusion, here are some fine fat people:

Ooh, 2010 Chris Pratt, you're fine! Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Damn, Octavia Spencer! Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

William Howard Taft, you're not particularly fine, but you're so fat all the presidents after you stopped being even a little bit fat because why try? And that's just so much respect right there. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Rebel Wilson. Nice work! Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images.

And of course...

Richard Simmons in the '90s. OG. Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

A group of around 20 moms gathered at a Boston area high school to vent their frustrations loudly.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but there are certain groups of people who have faced particularly intense challenges these past two years. Healthcare workers? For sure. Teachers? Definitely. Parents? Um, yes.

Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

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This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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