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. When people talk about eliminating obesity they don’t typically mean that world class athletes should drop muscle mass so that their ratio comes into line, or that very tall people should be underweight so that they have an “acceptable” ratio of weight and height.
When people talk about eliminating obesity, they typically mean eliminating people who are visibly fat. The war is not against a ratio of weight and height that’s greater than 30, it’s against people who don’t fit the stereotype of beauty. 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”.
The vast majority of dieters gain back all of their weight plus more within five years. Yet if we are part of this vast, vast majority, we are shamed 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, actively 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 (and I don’t think we would be), is the War on Obesity a good idea?
I think that the answer is a resounding no. There are absolutely no circumstances in which a war on all people who look a certain way is a good idea. Here’s are some steps to fight back…
- Notice how often these dangerous messages happen Tomorrow notice 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 created 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 and your body feel good.
- 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. Make 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. You get to make decisions for you based on your experience but nobody else is required to take your experience into account in their decisions. Don’t confuse your experience for everyone’s experience.
- Speak out when you see other people partaking in these negative 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 how to live, I just want them to know that there are options for happiness and health with the body they have now.
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This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!
I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or you can support my work with a one-time contribution. The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen