Let’s talk about obesity
I am no longer accepting comments along the lines of, “But being fat isn’t healthy…” You need to prove that you have not only read my post, but looked at the citations I have provided, or have an iota of critical thinking skills. That way, I’ll know that you aren’t making the same tired, ignorant counter argument over
and over again.
I’ve written briefly on the subject before, but I would like to expand, especially to include some scientific research. I know that, ironically, studies show that people are not swayed by logical analysis as much as they are swayed by sensationalism, especially when said sensationalism re-enforces their current beliefs. But I would like to see if perhaps I could sway some people anyway.
I have been interested in the subjects of eating disorders and obesity for most of my life. This interest began due to my mother’s influence; she is an expert in the fields of eating disorders (especially binge-eating disorder), obesity, and early childhood trauma. I think it would be dishonest for anybody to claim that their interest in a scientific subject was not in some way influenced by personal experiences. However, I did my own research as well. My citations have all been sourced by me, aside from this one, which underlines some of my concerns much better than I have (I didn’t read it until after I wrote this post).
This post is mostly based on my response to a comment on the other post I liked to.
What does fat have to do with health?
Short version: Not very much at all.
Health scientists unfortunately use a way of measuring health (the Body Mass Index) that is so archaic and unreliable, that results are paradoxical. Many studies are concluding, based on the BMI, that overweight and obese people are healthier than normal weight people; that severely obese people have the same mortality as normal weight people; or that underweight people have the highest mortality overall, including when it comes to cardiovascular health. That is exactly what this meta-study, which comprised 40 studies on over 250,000 people, concluded. They also concluded that the BMI was unreliable.
So how does the fat stigma regarding health affect fat people? Some people, like my commenter, see no connection between insisting that fat people are unhealthy and treating them with respect. However, this is patently false, especially in healthcare. The fact is, fat people are treated horribly by doctors based on the asssumption that fat is unhealthy. There has also been at least one study on physicians’ treatment of fat people. When fat is equated with health, fat people are treated as inherently unhealthy. This is untrue. Simple as that.
I do not believe that unhealthy people should be treated with any less respect than healthy people. That’s known as ableism. Ableism is a horrible problem. You can see it in the healthcare debate in the US – so many people are saying that they don’t want their hard-earned tax dollars going towards helping obese people who “can’t help themselves.” Of course, their tax dollars aren’t actually involved, and as we now know, fat people aren’t necessarily unhealthy. But ableism is rampant in the US and other countries, and it needs to be stopped. I think this has a lot to do with the Social Darwinistic principles underlying industrial culture.
When it comes to doctors, they need to focus on health. They do not need to focus on fat at all. That’s where Health at Every Size comes in. If a fat person has a poor diet that lacks essential nutrients, they need to be treated like a skinny person with the same problems. And we should all know that skinny people are equally likely to have poor diets (lord knows I have one).
Part of the argument for fat-phobia is that fat is mostly an environmental factor. I think this is a ridiculous argument, since it shouldn’t matter if it’s environmental or not – first of all, fat is not a health concern, and second of all, “environmental” does not translate to “voluntary,” as so many poorly-informed people seem to think it does. However, when it comes to the genetic factor, you can look at many peer-reviewed studies, including ones cited in this editorial. Genetics are not a “slight” influence; they are very significant.
I think most decent human beings would agree that other human beings should be treated with respect, assuming that they haven’t harmed you. Yet I see so many people with this view treating fat people as sub-human. Words like “disgusting,” “gross,” “ugly,” “blob,” and many others are commonly used to describe other people who have done no harm. We need to be much more concerned about language than we are. It can affect people very strongly, and can even reinforce harmful, self-destructive habits. We are all responsible for how we treat people, and how those people respond to our treatment. What exactly is the purpose of shaming fat people? Does anybody honestly think that it will “encourage” them to get thinner? That kind of mindset lacks a very fundamental understanding of human psychology.
I will say it again: The “obesity epidemic” isn’t a real thing. It is a combination of poor research, unreliable indices, horrible statistics, and scare tactics. Weight-loss diets do not work.
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~ by owlcat on 12 August, 2012.