(Apologies to anyone who’s a Facebook friend — some of this will be a re-hash of the links I’ve been posting there today.)
It’s occurred to me today that because I’ve been thinking about fat acceptance & health at every size concepts for a few years now, I sometimes talk about these concepts in a very “I hold these truths to be self-evident” way. And maybe, instead, it’s worth unpacking just a little bit about my perspective on questions of fatness and health.
Now to be sure, plenty of bloggers have already dropped the mic on this again and again and again, which may be part of my reticence tonight. After all, why cover ground that has really truly been covered with great insight before?
Maybe because the things things these writers have said are worth saying again. And again and again and again, until people finally stop all the fat-shaming and masking their superiority in concern trolling and their obesity panic and bleeping get it.
So here’s my own little piece of the mythbusting puzzle.
Most of what “everyone knows” about fat is pretty much wrong.
To start off, being fat is not automatically unhealthy. Fat people actually tend to live a bit longer, and are more likely to survive cardiac events. There’s also a fair bit of evidence that a lot of health problems supposedly “caused” by fatness might instead be a result of dieting and weight cycling. There is some evidence that certain health risks are tied to having a very specific type of adipose tissue in your body (visceral fat), but guess what? Thin people AND fat people can have too much visceral fat hurting their organs, and unless you’re Superman, I defy you to tell me you have the kind of x-ray vision to know who’s packing VF and who isn’t.
Warning: that last article I linked may give you stabby pains behind the eyes because after reporting on a study that pretty clearly states that the important factors are metabolic health and visceral fat, the author still ends with the concluding thought that these results should not be taken as “an excuse to remain overweight or obese.” Because even though the study shows obesity as a non-factor in measuring health, it’s still somehow a health risk. (Just because?) Ah,
rumor-mongering science journalism at its finest.
And while the illustrious staff writers at Time have left such tempting fruit, let’s take on this whole balderdash that implies one’s body shape and size are completely under one’s Ayn Rand-ian will. Because, statistically speaking, diets don’t work.
Sorry Not-sorry to burst your bubble on this one: they don’t. And they do incredible harm along the way. The weight loss industry, has a catastrophic “success rate” and an evil jiu jitsu way of transfering its own failings out onto the customer so they feel guilty about it all. Well, to quote Golda Poretsky at Body Love Wellness: “It’s bullshit and it’s bad for ya.”
As for healthy diet and exercise choices, yes they do indeed matter and they can make a big difference in reducing the effect of various “fat-related” conditions like cholesterol levels or blood pressure. But here’s the funny thing: those conditions get reversed independent of any actual weight loss being caused by diet and exercise choices. And considering the negative health effects of being fat-shamed and stigmatized, and considering the fact that fat people have a dramatically lower chance of even getting decent health care on account of the prejudicial attitudes of medical professionals, it’s probably best to steer clear of claiming that a fat person’s health challenges are being caused by weight. ‘Cos I’m seeing a lot of confounding causality here.
I need to get to bed at a reasonable hour, so I’m pulling the cart to a stop here. With one final thought.
Even if fat were unhealthy and if being fat were entirely under an individual’s control, every fat person on this planet would be deserving of fundamental human respect, acceptance and compassion. Just because of their humanity.
The heart-breaking thing is how little respect, acceptance, or compassion fat people get in this culture today — even though fat isn’t unhealthy and it can’t reliably be controlled.