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Rant Alert! Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I've just read Becky Hand's article in Huff Post's Healthy Living section and, wow, did it touch a nerve with me:


I couldn't agree with her more and excuse me if I go off on a bit of a rant.

If you've been SparkFriends with me for a while, you may already know my story. I lost more than 90 pounds through sensible changes to my diet and exercise routine following many years of yo-yo dieting. I don't believe that weight loss and maintenance is possible through a one-size-fits-all approach but I do believe in using as many tools as we can to help ensure our success, even ones that have become popular to hate such as the scale or BMI.

Although I'd love to say that any article that downplays the negative effects of obesity should simply be taken with a grain of salt, the reality is that these types of articles often aren't. Many people who have struggled with weight management are desperate for quick fixes and will eagerly latch onto excuses to rationalize why they're not making progress or why it's okay to accept living with their obesity. I know this is true for a decent part of the obese population because I once thought the same way, a mindset that's taken me years to change.

What's more, many people with weight management problems also have psychological issues (much as drug addicts or alcoholics do) that compound their struggle to attain and maintain a healthy weight. That's why I find articles that downplay the dangers of obesity so hazardous. It's almost like telling an addict that recreational drug use is okay. Dangling that kind of carrot in front of someone whose weight management issues are compounded by psychological issues is downright irresponsible in my opinion.

So, thanks, Becky Hand, for the thought-provoking article, even if it did rile me up a bit. Hopefully articles like this will inspire a more responsible movement in health-related journalism. And if you're reading this, thanks for your patience. End of rant.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for bringing this into my attention!
    I like your analogy of recreational drug use...
    1869 days ago
    Great article Tina, thanks for sharing. I had come across this JAMA study in another site and my first reaction was curiosity. What followed was anger, of course.
    Unfortunately, I believe that there are many journalists out there who will keep isolating small percentages of various studies in order to create a "catchy" title. We have no other option but to rely on our common sense and on our trusted doctors' opinions to define healthy.
    emoticon emoticon
    1876 days ago
  • CAMAEL100
    Great article. I think it is much easier to believe being over weight is not bad for you and reach for the TV remote and potato chips and sit and eat. But what kind of life is that??? Surely we don't even need research to tell us that that is no way to LIVE!! That is just existing. I don't believe in that 'happy fat person' myth. There is so much more I can do when not overweight.

    And don't get me started on my children's friends who can't even run properly at 8-10 years of age. And my kids tell me most of their friends (mainly the fat ones) have sweets and treats in their lunch every day! Recently when having kids over they expressed amazement that my kids drink water or milk and we don't have coke or pepsi in the house!!

    We have a TV programme that tries to tackle obesity and there is one very straight talking doctor who I admire but who gets abuse for her opinions. She says that we are so used to obesity now that we think that overweight people are normal. That was a wake up call for me!! And she is so right. They featured a twelve year old boy who is 280lbs. He 168lbs at eight when he was admitted to hospital for something. Why did no-one do anything for him then. It is heartbreaking to watch him.

    I suppose I have got my rant in as well!!!!
    1877 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was an excellent blog. I am totally with you about society downplaying the obesity epidemic. Plus you are right, people are looking for any excuse to stay overweight.
    I had read this information before and admit to slightly worrying that I would not live as long being thin. However, tossed this idea out the window and decided to stay thin and healthy.

    I also agree with you that any tools like the scale, bmi, or waist size are valuable in maintenance!

    1878 days ago
    I completely agree with POOKASLUAGH & have a (was) close friend who shared these views of "fat pride" and that you can be healthy and overweight. I say "was" only because I wouldn't consider us friends anymore since she felt so strongly about this that she felt the need to rant, argue and place guilt on those trying to be healthy at every social gathering.
    I think that self confidence &positive self esteem is great to possess at any size. However, being ignorant to the state of your current and future health & arguing it because deep down you feel hopeless resulting in bringing down those who are truly trying to make healthy lifestyle changes is absolutely horrible.
    1879 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/26/2013 2:55:00 PM
  • DALID414
    emoticon Wow!
    1879 days ago
    Let me tell you, I've heard it all.
    If anyone thinks that somehow they will escape the horrid effects of obesity, they just haven't lived long enough.
    A close friend was one of the HAES lifestylers. The year she turned 50, it was like hitting a brick wall. 12 different medications prescribed in less than a year for my healthy friend. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, knee replacements, you name it.
    She had gastric bypass at 51...
    1879 days ago
    1879 days ago
    Great blog! I agree that people need to start taking this more seriously, especially childhood obesity. Parents are setting their kids up for a (short) lifetime of poor health and poor quality of life because their bodies don't develop in a normal, healthy way and they'll have a harder time losing weight than people who became overweight or obese as adults. Fat parents tend to have fat kids, and the denial doesn't stop at their own waste line, most parents don't think that even their clinically obese children are overweight. Sorry, guess that turned into my own mini-rant. I do have to say that just gaining 50 pounds over about 5 years I was in denial about how much it was hurting my quality of life, along with becoming generally out of shape. Now a days I often marvel at how easy it is to do something as simple as climbing stairs or squatting way down, but never would have really understood the connection with my weight and problems doing these small things three years ago. I will give this article a read, thanks!
    1879 days ago
    Really want to get fired up?
    1) Google HAES
    2) Rage.
    1879 days ago
    I agree with you!
    1879 days ago
  • GABY1948
    GREAT GREAT GREAT message! Thank you!
    1879 days ago
    I know a whole group of people (online) who are severely obese and who rant constantly about how they are healthy despite their weight because they've not-yet had any obesity-related problems. Many of these people are in their early 20s and their bodies simply haven't had a chance to develop these problems yet. There's a HUGE growing online movement to stop blaming obesity-related problems on obesity. !!!!!!! I can't express just how alarming this is to me. People need to look reality in the face. Yes, it's hard to lose weight. It's very very hard, and it's hard to keep weight off, but it CAN be done. It takes work and it takes education, because fads don't work, and when people try a diet and fail over and over, they lose hope and decide it's impossible for them to lose. (Okay, i'm going to end this comment now, because I could go off on a blog-sized rant as well, haha!)
    1879 days ago
    Rant away! Your voice is so very important on spark!!
    1879 days ago
    it's important to point this out - thanks for sharing!
    1879 days ago
  • LESLIE871948
    I am not sure if you recall the woman who founded a movement for Alcoholics that proposed that they "moderate" their alcohol intake. I don't remember it well enough to mention more than That, but yeah - the world is full of varying "opinions". I look at this from the point of view of a professional nurse, an older person, someone who truly values critical thinking and as a nursing professor I am familiar with research studies in the health field as well as the pathophysiology that is likely behind the assumption that a few extra pounds is a good thing. If you took the journalists and the sensationalists out of the equation there is nothing at all wrong with that research study taken as it was intended. And addicts of all kinds are wired to exhibit denial, magical thinking, and tons of other varying degrees of *crazy*. We cannot make the journalists stop it, nor would the addicts quit finding rationalizations for their denial if they were not in print. Just my 2cents. And I think this is going to influence people my age who may be following very low calorie diets to live "longer" about as much as it influences people who want to stay fatter anyway. My guess less than 1% of the target audience...
    1879 days ago
    Thanks for the link I'll read the article
    1879 days ago
    We've been through this before. The recommended weights on the height weight chart are much higher for women now than they were 40 years ago when I first started studying them.
    1879 days ago
    Absolutely right! There is a pattern emerging here.
    The nation is getting fat.
    Change the sizing of clothes so that women don’t notice. Call the old size 8 a zero. It makes more money for the company if they feel good about themselves.

    We keep packing on the pounds?
    Attack the scale. It’s not a true measure of anything.
    Don’t like the old height/weight charts? Try BMI
    BMI gives you bad news? Don’t pay any attention to it.

    “A few extra pounds are good for you” especially if you get a wasting disease, it will take you longer to die. Don’t define “few” pounds either.
    Re-engineer the hospital equipment to handle our every increasing bulk.
    Don’t even mention quality of life.

    Start calling people at a healthy weight “scrawny” or worse.
    Call people who exercise “obsessive”
    Call people who eat healthy the “food police”
    Being overweight/obese is the majority now (66%). Let’s change the rules. Majority rules!

    As for insurance companies charging extra for being “overweight” on the BMI scale, that’s about their profit margin not concern for our health. They could use any measure that works for them. (like pre-existing conditions)

    I SO agree with your position that I have just delayed writing my regular blog entry this morning.

    1879 days ago
    Excellent point from a person who speaks with experience! Thank you for sharing this important and interesting article and for your very valid opinion!

    What's more, it's not just obesity but eating disorders in general that I feel are sometimes not understood as serious issues. Anorexia and bulimia yes, but not binge eating or compulsive overeating-I feel they are seen as trivial issues by most-a sign of greed or gluttony instead of a true disorder.

    Again, thanks for raising the issue.
    1879 days ago
  • SISSIE21
    Just read the article and have to agree with you. As someone who had lost and then regained over 90 pounds, I saw my health issues increasing with the weight gain and my quality of life decreasing. As I am losing weight and exercising again, my overall feeling of well being is steadily increasing as well as improvement in resting heart rate, energy level, blood pressure, back and knee pain, etc.

    It is a discussion that needs to be had, however...
    The 'fat bashing' that I read on comments of articles on overweight people contributes nothing but feelings of isolation, shame and anger. I can only imagine what it must be like to be an overweight youngster at school in today's climate. That may be part of the reason for a tendency towards 'weight acceptance'. How can we elevate the discussion to one of health that is motivating and compassionate? I believe that is the challenge in today's world.
    1879 days ago
    I agree with not being to the lowest range of BMI and that sometimes a few more pounds can be good (i.e. if you are sick and you need to be hospitalized). But it's 3-4 pounds I'm talking about... Being obese (or even overweight) is a risk for your life and for the lives of the people around you because they can lose you any time!

    Thank you so much for sharing! I didn't know that there were people who tried to convince that obesity is something casual, so it becomes instantly normal and good. They should be ashamed of themselves for deceiving people and playing with their hopes.
    1879 days ago
    It is indeed a very serious issue.

    Congrats on losing the weight and keeping it off.
    1879 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/26/2013 5:18:41 AM
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