Yesterday someone named Monty posted a reply to my post “Why Health at Every Size” that said, in part:
I just worry that your are confusing the two and have convinced yourself that 284 is healthy. I guess I would challenge you to post your numbers (cholesterol, Blood pressure, etc) and prove to the scientific community that larger people can have perfectly healthy numbers. That would make it easier to shut these fat-haters up!
He/she prefaced this with a paragraph that I found even more paternalistic and insulting. You can read my answer on that post, but what it made me want to talk about is the double edged sword of proof as it relates to us fatties.
Obviously, the fact that I am healthy is not enough proof for the scientific community (nor should it be) – but I have to wonder what would be enough? So grounded are they in the apocryphal idea that health and weight are causally linked that it seems like no amount of evidence will sway them. I know that because we keep reading things like “[random health problem] is caused by obesity” even though there is zero evidence to support those statements. The bigger problem to me is that this has lead to a climate where instead of trying to figure out what would make everyone healthier, everyone is trying to find the magic bullet that will make everyone thin.
You would think that after all of this time and effort, the fact that they have failed to prove that weight causes health issues, or that intentional weight loss works, would have lead scientists to start looking for another answer, or at least a new question. Unfortunately very few people seem to be interested in doing any research to see if the issue might be something other than weight perhaps because they are too busy trying to shout “don’t you know fat is unhealthy” above the noise of the actual evidence.
Maybe it’s because convincing people that being thin will make them healthy has become a $60,000,000,000 a year industry. Who wants to give up sixty billion bucks to research the health effects of being constantly told that you are sick, unattractive, lazy etc. Or to research why it is that in countries with no stigma about obesity there seem to be no greater negative health outcomes. That would be too much work. Just keep telling the fatties to lose weight. It’s a great business plan since intentional weight loss (whether you call it a diet, lifestyle change, eating program, medically supervised, or something else) fails 95% of the time within 5 years. (Even if you see a doctor, even if you lift weights to increase your base metabolic rate, even if you only lose one pound per week…) This revolving door affords the industry a never ending supply of clients. They seem to think that diet programs are like toilet paper – you’ll need them every day until you die.
So it seems that no number of healthy fat people would satisfy the scientific community that you can be fat and healthy, especially in light of the VFHT (Vague Future Health Threat) Maybe some scientist would like to explore the possibility that it’s not the obesity that “catches up to us”, but the stress of a lifetime of constant social stigma, discrimination, and assertion that we are unhealthy lazy slobs, that causes health problems later in life for some obese individuals.
On the other side of that equation are these diets we keep hearing so much about. They work less than 5% of the time. But the general consensus of the scientific community seems to be “They only work a tiny percentage of the time, but that’s proof that they work so go get ‘em tiger. And if you find yourself in the 95% of people who don’t lose weight – it’s so obviously and scientifically your fault. 5% of people can’t be wrong!”.
So every scientist and researcher interested in this subject has the opportunity to study the 1 in 3 healthy obese people and try to figure out why they are healthy. Or to study cultures where obesity is not stigmatized and negative health outcomes do not appear to be realized. Or they could do the million and first study about weight loss and the less than 5% of people who’ve been able to maintain weight loss for more than 5 years. And most of them choose the latter! I don’t think I’m particularly interested in the opinions of people who call themselves scientists and yet continuously make that choice.
All scientists make mistakes, disprove their own hypotheses through their research, and realize that they were wrong. That’s what science is about. It just seems like the ones who aren’t part of a $60 Billion industry are a little quicker to be honest (and, you know, scientific about it), and make a course correction. I don’t know about you but 5% is within the margin of error of most studies and that’s just not enough proof for me. What I do keeps me healthy and Monty may be worried about me (“bless his/her heart” as we say in the South), but I am not worried at all.