I know that with all of “war on obesity” stuff you hear it’s hard to believe, but stick with me here for a minute. First let’s clarify who the War on Obesity is actually against. It would seem to be against obese people, but that’s not quite true. “Obesity” as currently defined is the result of a mathematical formula involving a ratio of weight and height called “BMI” We’ve discussed before why the BMI is BS. Part of the reason is that there are so many exceptions to the rule. Since BMI doesn’t take muscle mass into account, many hardcore athletes (most of the NFL for example) are obese based on the formula. Nobody wants to get rid of athletes or force them to lose muscle to conform and so they are given an exception. If you are mathematically obese but without what is considered an excess of adipose tissue, you are excepted from the war.
So let’s just be honest: Nobody wants to eliminate obesity, they want to eliminate people who are visibly fat. There is no war on obesity, there is a war against fat people. And the front lines of this war are everywhere we look and listen – magazine covers, billboards, commercials, infomercials, ads on the internet, random strangers on the street, health care and wellness professionals, talk show hosts etc.
Knowing that, today I’m going to ignore the mountain of scientific evidence that says that intentional weight loss doesn’t work. I’m going to ignore all of the evidence that Health at Every Size does work. I’m going to ignore the many healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people who exist and disprove the efficacy of conflating weight and health. My question today is: Even if we would all be healthier if we were thin, is the War on Obesity a good idea?
Have you ever had something that you hated: a purse, some shoes, a knick-knack that was a gift from someone? Did you take good care if it? Were you inspired to dust it and polish it and keep it beautiful.
The war on obesity has branched out to cover not just the appearance of bodies, but also their health, intelligence and worthiness. The War tells us that if our bodies are fat then they are unhealthy, ugly, unattractive and not worthy of love. We are told that we are not thin because we are lazy, don’t make healthy choices, and lack will power. We are told that thin is the same as healthy and that we can’t have health without attaining a “healthy weight”.
95% of dieters gain back all of their weight plus more within five years. Yet if we are part of this vast majority, we are shamed, tsk’d and called weak failures.
The war on obesity tells us to hate ourselves. Then it says that we have to take good care of ourselves. Then it says that it doesn’t matter if we take good care of ourselves, we have to lose weight or we should keep hating ourselves until we hate ourselves enough to take good enough care of ourselves to lose weight.
It’s ridiculous. It’s a system that sets us up to fail, participates in our failure, then makes us feel horrible for failing, all the while profiting the diet industry to the tune of almost $60,000,000,000 (yup, that’s sixty billion dollars) a year.
So back to my original question: Even if we would all be healthier if we were thin, is the War on Obesity a good idea?
I think that the answer is no. And I say it’s time to opt out of the war on obesity all together because even if we would be healthier if we were thin, the war on obesity still doesn’t make sense. Here’s how I think we can do it…
- Notice how often this happens. Decide tomorrow to see how many messages you get about obesity – from television, the radio, the internet (how many diet ads are on the pages you look at) etc. Notice how many of those messages are placed forward by someone who either wants you to buy their product or has something to gain by maintaining the status quo (ie: they derive their self-esteem from being “better” than fat people)
- Appreciate your body! Your body is amazing – think of all of the stuff that it is doing for you right now: you are breathing, your heart is beating, you are blinking, the list goes on and on. Your body deserves to be loved and appreciated! Just as it is. Right now. Right this minute.
- Do things that make you feel good. If you don’t feel as healthy as you would like, then I would absolutely encourage you to make choices to take care of your amazing body. Not necessarily so that you change its size or shape, or to fit into a bikini. Just for the joy of feeling good and taking care of your amazing body.
- Stop judging others by their weight. Stop assuming that very thin women have eating disorders. Stop assuming that fat people are lazy or unhealthy. Strike words like “skinny bitch”, “fat pig” etc. from your vocabulary
- Don’t push your idea of health onto other people. Practice healthy choices for yourself and stop telling other people how they should live unless they are asking directly for your thoughts or advice. Your experience is just that – YOUR experience. Don’t confuse your experience for everyone else’s.
- Speak out when you see other people partaking in these behaviors. Every time someone says something like this they are reinforcing to someone else that they are unhealthy, unattractive and unworthy. The idea of making someone hate themselves healthy is ludicrous.
- Tell your story. A lot of people don’t even know that Health at Ever Size is an option for them. That’s the entire point of my blog. I don’t want to tell people what to choose for their health, I just want to make sure they know that HAES is an option.
Speaking of telling my story, an article about me is appearing in the June issue of “All You” magazine (which is found in Walmart Stores). It was beautifully written by Virginia Sole-Smith from The Beauty Schooled Project. I love her blog and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank her for the article and all of the support!