Let’s Talk About the “Obesity Epidemic,” Shall We?

Readers, if you are under the age of 13 don’t read the next sentence. I think the obesity epidemic is complete and utter bullshit. 13 year old readers, you can come back now.

It’s generally considered that 1 in every 3 Americans are overweight or obese, according to BMI. If any of you have a build that is considered different from the “norm,” happen to be musclebound, or are just really thick hipped, you know that BMI is not worth it’s weight (oh god, I punned, I’m so sorry!). Unfortunately, “fat” is a bad word and the guilt campaign led by people who aren’t overweight is remarkably effective…at making us feel terrible about ourselves! If causing people emotional distress led to weight loss, we probably wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic.

Lots of factors lead to weight gain. Yes, some people eat too much junk food and are incredibly sedentary. Those are people who have an easy problem to deal with compared to people suffering from the other myriad of reasons people are overweight. In my entire life, I have never met a single person who became obese because of that problem alone. Saying that the solution for people is to simply “eat less and move more” is like saying people can raise their intelligence by sitting next to text books. It scratches the surface, but doesn’t deal with what is actually necessary to become healthy.

Did you know that people become obese because they don’t have the money or time to prepare real food? It’s a contributing factor, one overlooked by people who have always had the means to feed themselves. I could buy 1lb of kale for $1.27 right now. I could also buy a box of generic hamburger helper. If you’re trying to quickly feed a family of four, what would be your first inclination to purchase? In fact, even if you’ve bettered your situation, growing up in poverty affects your taste buds. If hamburger helper tastes like home, that’s what you will want to eat. It’s very simple logic.

Other people self medicate with food. Do you have any idea how hard it is to go through extreme emotional pain, find that the only thing you want in the world is a wedge (not slice) of cherry pie and a giant bowl of mashed potatoes and then not eat those things? In my experience, it makes everything worse. Then, you eat the pie and are happy for a second or so, until you go through the incredible amount of self hate that happens when you binge eat. Why do you hate yourself so much? Is it because you’re human? Is it because you’re hurting yourself and your body by ingesting poison? Is it because the pie just didn’t taste very good? No. It’s because you’ve been told, from infancy, that being fat is bad and you could be skinny if you just had a little more will power.

Readers, that’s complete and utter (13 year olds, look away) shit. I think instead of fat shame we should focus on good things, like learning how to eat healthy foods on a budget, or even how to grow our own. (I also believe minimum wage should go up and people should have access to preventative health care, but I can only take on so many battles.) I think people should learn how to exercise when they can’t afford a gym membership (who can these days?) and how to be able to enjoy their food without needing to eat it on the go. I think people should learn how to read a nutrition label and learn what’s worth the value and what isn’t.

Maybe, just maybe, it would also be a good idea for insurance companies to offer better counseling options.

Media, stop calling it the obesity epidemic. Stop telling people that if the rest of the country would just stop being so fat then health care costs would go down. That’s crap and you know it. Skinny people smoke, eat junk food and take crappy care of themselves, too. It has nothing to do, at all, with how overweight a person is and much more to do with how well they take care of themselves. Sure, obesity is linked to a lot of diseases. You know what else obesity is linked to? Poor health habits. Let’s call this what it really is, a “Health Crisis.” That’s something I can get behind, and that is something I would rather see than the picture you show me, every day, of the backside of large groups of morbidly obese people. It’s demeaning, it’s depressing, and it completely wipes away the dignity of the people you claim you are trying to “help.”

People watching, don’t be taken in. Most Americans need to eat better, skinny or not, and BMI is a terrible judge of health. If you are overweight, just realize that changing a few habits will help you feel tons better. If you are not overweight, just realize that changing a few habits will help you feel tons better (see what I did there?). Furthermore, never, EVER, allow yourself to be taken in by the new wave of “fat hate” that’s been everywhere lately. Overweight people are overweight for reasons you can’t possibly understand without a long conversation with each and every one of them. Besides, your hatred of them likely makes everything worse.

After all, the kids laughing at me in gym class didn’t make me want to go for a run; they made me want to hide in the nurses office. Being made fun of in the lunch room or at family gatherings (yes, this happened, though it wasn’t the adults) taught me to eat when no one was around. These aren’t healthy habits! I understand that kids can’t help themselves and can’t be held responsible for their actions, but I must ask where the gym teacher was when I was being tormented, or my teachers. I’m not even sure where my family was for all of this. I have my suspicions that the adults who should have scolded the children were just as disgusted by a fat little girl who couldn’t keep up as my peers were.

So think, very hard, about what you hear about the obesity epidemic. Ask yourself if you actually believe what the news is saying, or if you have a little bit of prejudice towards overweight people. It’s ok if you do, to be honest, I have some, too. Pots often call kettles black in these situations. At any rate, try to get over these prejudices, and for those of you getting fingers pointed at you by the media, don’t take it so hard. Educate yourselves about food and health issues that matter, and take care of the people you love.

That’s really much more effective than shame. Don’t you think?


One response »

  1. You’re speaking truth, dear friend. It’s just such a racket (think how many commercials you see on TV, or on the internet selling weight loss – MULTI-billion dollar industry), and it’s so pervasive. “Fat” is the new thing it’s “okay” to hate.

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