This is the Obesity Message We All Need to Hear

obesity

No, you are not healthy at every size. Yes, fat acceptance is dangerous.

Daniel Callahan writes about the obese in The Hastings Center Report. When reading Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic you’ll find:

 Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them to the reality of their condition. They have been lulled into oblivious-ness about their problem because they look no different from many others around them. They need to be leaned upon, nudged, and—when politically feasible—helped by regulations to understand that they are potentially in trouble. They should not want to be that way, nor should others.

Before folks get all screechy with me, nowhere does it say that the obese person is a bad person. It simply points out that as everyone is getting fatter people aren’t noticing it because if you look left or right you’re surrounded by people who have gotten fat with you. Sort of like putting a frog in water and slowly turning the heat up.

About Stigmatization he writes:

Misled by the public health community’s acceptance—and even enthusiastic embrace—of supply and demand measures against and outright stigmatization of smoking, I naively assumed that community would do the same against obesity. I had not realized that smoking was the exception—that the public health community generally opposes anything that looks like blaming the victim. This fact was surely evident in the struggle against HIV, as well as in other campaigns over the decades against the stigmatization of people with many other diseases. It has not been hard to fnd examples of stigmatization turning into outright discrimination, even (notoriously) in health care.

Why is obesity said to be different from smoking? Three reasons are common: it is wrong to stigmatize people because of their health conditions; wrong to think it will work well, or at all, with obesity; and counterproductive with the obese because of evidence that it worsens rather than improves their condition. Ethically speaking, the social pressures on smokers focused on their behavior, not on them as persons. Stigmatizing the obese, by contrast, goes after their character and selfhood, it is said, not just their behavior. Stigmatization in their case also leads demonstrably to outright discrimination, in health care, education, and the job market more generally. The obese are said to be lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in discipline, awkward, unattractive, weak-willed and sloppy, insecure and shapeless, to mention only a few of the negative judgments among doctors and nurses.

Clearly there’s a difference between stigmatization (which is subconsciously happening whether you choose to believe it is or not) and having the very real, very frank discussion that obesity is an unhealthy condition and that there’s quality of life to be gained by being a healthy size. Callahan wraps up with:

What I am suggesting—empow-ering the victims, not blaming them, and that individual responsibility is necessary—has its risks. But if the individual and public health impact of being overweight and obese is dangerous, then it is hard to imagine any kind of strong and effective efforts that will not meet resistance. The failure of efforts to date to make much difference suggest that a change of strategy is necessary.

Things you’ll find when you read the full text:

  •  Most of the 67 percent who are overweight or obese will remain so for the rest of their lives, guaranteeing serious health problems as they get older.
  •  Meanwhile, the food industry fights back, debunking scientifc evidence, minimizing the harm, and spending considerable money lobbying legislators.
  • Whether or not they [the public] recognize their own role in it, they need to understand that obesity is a national health problem, one that causes lethal diseases, shortens lives, and contributes substantially to rising health care costs
  • It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry when the most important studies of obesity count a 5 to 10 percent weight loss a “success,” adding that even that much loss has a health benefit, not to be dismissed.

This is not a condemnation of you if you have weight to lose. I absolutely condemn the folks who keep shusshing me when I say that it’s not healthy to be fat. You cannot be obese and have the same quality of life as a typical sized person. It’s a simple impossibility. It’s okay to tell your kids that it’s better for your body to be normal sized than to be fat. It won’t give them an eating disorder… of course overeating IS an eating disorder that Americans love to pass on to their children.

Please. Read this study and rethink the wisdom of fat acceptance.

 

UPDATE: This is a great article too: Gap widens between actual weight and people’s imagined weight

 

 

Facebook Comments

  • Annie, mama dweeb

    Thank you! I have friends/family members that are obese and they look at me as I go to the gym 3x’s a week and eat small portions and berate me for having an ED or being obsessed or “too thin.” The kicker? I am 153 lbs and 5’4. I am technically overweight.

    We as a country do not have a clear idea of what healthy looks like. We either see anorexic models and scream in rebellion. But accepting unhealthy weight and eating habits is just as unhealthy.

    If I hear “feed that girl a cheeseburger” one more time….

    • http://www.facebook.com/kim.grabinski Kimberly Bondi Grabinski

      My BMI falls into the overweight category as well. Clearly it’s not always about the number on the scale, because the scale is flawed as much as our entire food culture is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kim.grabinski Kimberly Bondi Grabinski

    A big part of the problem is our food supply. Products are touted as being healthy when they contain chemicals that screw up our bodies. “Low-fat” and “fat-free” are magic words that dieters flock to when the reality of it is that the fat didn’t make them fat – well the RIGHT fats won’t make them fat. The hydrogenated trans-fats with artificial flavors, MSG, soda and red dye did.

    But.

    We all learned as children that just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t make it right.

    Most people know something is wrong. They understand that if they cut out the junk food and replace it with fresh fruits and veggies and lean proteins they will lose weight. In most cases, ignorance is not an excuse. But time and again people refuse to accept accountability for their actions. They refuse to CHANGE, So instead they try and change the perception. The reality of it is that they are only hurting themselves and their children because deep down, I bet even they aren’t buying what they are selling.

    NO ONE should be discriminated against for any reason, but food related illness (heart disease) is the #1 killer of people in this country. Our food is killing us. Trying to change the perception and not the problem leaves our children with a sad, and very shortened, legacy.

  • trisha

    The other day I was trying on jeans at the store and had come out and asked my husband what he thought…clearly they were about a half a size too big but a size too small gave me what we fondly refer to as “muffin top”. As I went back in I heard a lady remark to the sales woman that she would “show me some muffin top” and I heard my husband say “don’t let her small size fool you..it bothers her like anyone else. If you don’t worry about the first 5 pounds, what happens when its 10 or 15.” They didn’t respond, but he is right. Its so easy to just accept when the reality is that we can change. No, its not easy. Its not easy for my 5 pounds anymore than it is for someone that needs 50. But I refuse to accept it. I have to set an example for my kids and I want them to be a picture of better eating and better exercising than I have been.

    trisha

  • http://twitter.com/Submommy Karen

    I’m going to go ahead and say something potentially inflammatory: I like being in shape and thin. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, and all places in between. I’ve never been obese, but I’ve had to lose weight and I *get* that it’s not easy. Nothing truly worth having is.

    I like thin. Not SKINNY. Thin. I won’t “accept” fat for myself. I like being able to run three miles whenever I feel like it. I enjoy climbing up a steep hill to go sledding with my kids without having to stop for breaks. I like breathing at night when I sleep. I like shopping at a “regular” clothing store and wearing a single-digit size. I choose daily to eat things and do things that will keep me that way. It’s a choice that I make every day. To say that something like obesity is out of your control is a cop-out. The only people in America who can say they don’t have a choice are the kids who eat the food brought into their house.

  • Pingback: Denouncing Daniel Callahan’s shameful strategy | Outspoken()

  • Pingback: Female Hippos, Tractor Sized Co-Stars and Rex Reed | Jessica Gottlieb A Los Angeles Mom()