Let's Find a Middle Ground About Fat and Obesity

  • Posted on: 10 January 2008
  • By: mokshalom

I somehow stumbled across this site called "Big Fat Facts" this morning that claims that it's not unhealthy to be fat. It seems, as a backlash to the campaign against obesity and our national obsession with thin, some fat activists are trying to put forth the message that it is perfectly OK to be fat (if not totally obese).

It's mind boggling to me, however, that anyone could claim with a serious face that it's perfectly good for your health to be obese.

No, I'm sorry, it is not. It is not good to be obese. It's bad for you. You only need to watch the documentary Supersize Me to see how adding just some fat can have an immediate and awful impact on your health.

And yes, we do have an obesity epidemic on our hands.

Fat in My Family
How do I know we have an obesity epidemic? Because when I was a child I remember it was rare when a person was fully obese. One of my grandmothers was fat, but she certainly wasn't obese in the way that people today become obese.

And then, I watched as three of my cousins grew up (from different sides of the family, with one adopted), and go from being a normal weight (if not on the skinny side) to being clinically obese.

None of these three cousins of mine were fat as children. Two of them were beautiful girls, who were the popular, pretty, prom queen type of girls. The other was a boy who lean to the point of being downright gangly.

I was absolutely shocked when I saw these family members, my age, gain such massive amounts of weight in their 20s. And as I mentioned, these three were not related, considering the opposite sides of the family and one being adopted to boot.

One of them lost the weight through diet and exercise. Another lost it through bariatric surgery, and she is now having some health problems because of that. The other is still very overweight and suffering other major health problems, problems the likes of which I am certainly not experiencing at the same age, despite my chronic fatigue syndrome. (And I've only gotten healthier.)

So I can see with my own eyes, in my own family, people who became fat not through genes or a family propensity for fat, but through lack of exercise and poor diet. Because based on their weight in childhood, and that of their parents (thin, even in old age), there is absolutely no other reason for this extensive weight gain.

In the case of these cousins of mine, the obesity is not genetic. If it had been, it would have shown up in childhood and certainly in the parents of the two who were not adopted.

Extremes are Not Healthy
I guess I can understand why some overweight people would want to hold up the banner of "fat is good." There's so much horrible pressure to be thin these days. There's still so much ridicule against fat people. (I remember one painful moment on the Simpsons, where an overweight white trash woman is exercising on the floor only to take a huge bite of cake with her mouth. It wasn't funny, it was mean and cruel.)

Meanwhile, we are constantly reminded (especially as women) that we need to be thin to be accepted and loved. That's certainly not right, but neither is telling people it's healthy to be overweight.

I know a woman who is also my age, who is clinically obese, and has suffered from diabetes for years. She was already unhealthy in her 20s. She could barely walk across a parking lot without strain or huffing and puffing - walking like an old woman at the age of 27! She is not healthy, not happy, and certainly not the better for her weight problems.

But I guess it's easier, in the midst of the pressure to be beautiful, to reject any suggestion that fat can be bad for you.

We seem to be a country of extremes. Can't we find a middle ground here?

The very people who suggest that it's not unhealthy to be overweight will also tell you that it's more unhealthy to be underweight.

Well, you can't have it both ways. If being underweight can negatively impact your health, so can being overweight. Let's be sensible here.

A Middle Ground

I don't think all women should have to be size 6 or under to be pretty. I know a woman who is probably a size 12 and she is incredibly beautiful, in good shape, and happily married.

But there is a difference between a healthy size 14 and an unhealthy 3XL.

Yes, by all means, let's expand the definition of attractive to include women with some meat on their bones. No, let's not extend that to the point where we laud morbid obesity. An eating disorder is an eating disorder, whether it's chronic overeating or chronic undereating. Neither super-thin or super-fat is healthy. It's an illness, and needs to be healed.


Major agreement here. I'm a healthy 16. My blood pressure fluctuates up sometimes, but it does not track with my weight (which is pretty stable) so much as how well I'm dealing with stress. When I'm avoiding caffeine and getting enough exercise, yoga and meditation and other kinds of "me" time; it's normal.

As you have pointed out,there is a difference between someone like me who has some curves but will do a 15 mile round trip bicycle commute when weather permits, and someone who has trouble with a flight of stairs.

I would like to see us shift what is considered beautiful and healthy away from size zero. I see too many actresses and models that look like they're starving, and perhaps they are to stay in that shape. So yes, expand the range to include the normal misses sizes, but I would argue we should take out the unnaturally small sizes unless you are very short. I don't think size zero or 2 existed when I was a teenager; 4 was the smallest then.

0, 12, 16, 28, 4 . . . they are all numbers. It's not really the NUMBER that can bother us, but our THOUGHTS that we have attached to the numbers. Personally, I really would like to do as the Europeans and have metric sizes . . . measurements are consistent, based closer to reality and the number actually correlates with the body.

"When you argue with reality, you lose - but only 100% of the time."
~Byron Katie

I totally agree with you! I think it was Oscar Wilde who once said "Nothing exceeds like excess."
I started as a kid being tall & wide after my father who was tall and my mother's family who were all wide. I have joined Jenny Craig twice, gyms 5 times, taken several diet pills, and have each time lost 80 lbs and felt great but then sunk into another depression which made me balloon up again. I may be in my early retirement after MS forced me to quit my police job since I couldn't run or subdue a criminal using a walker since my right leg was paralyzed so when it went back into remission, I drove back out to the SW where it has stayed in remission in this beautiful dry heat and I'm no longer plagued by blindness or paralysis.
I'm not dead yet so hope to concentrate on losing that 80 lbs for the last time and feel healthier when I take my walks again.
My knees were always a problem so hope to get them corrected by laser surgery to remove the calcium build-up and bone spurs and arthritis.
My blood pressure was always calm, my sugar level normal, cholesterol low, so need to rid myself of this college beer gut which is so unattractive and unhealthy for me.
I love this desert where the sun shines everyday and my mood is always great! I want to live as long as my parents did into their mid-eighties.