The Myth of Obesity

A PSA regarding obesity, fat shaming, diet culture

Obesity is a complex issue with many potential causes. It can be a symptom of poor diet or stress, a medication side effect, a genetic predisposition. Junk food is a common cause, since its low cost per calorie is often the only way economically disadvantaged people can get enough to eat. Junk food isn't as filling, so you eat more – and that's by design. It's addictive on purpose, because addicts are a very lucrative market.

Furthermore, obesity as it's defined in certain Western cultures (especially the United States and Britain) is a largely manufactured "crisis". It's typically measured using BMI, a system originally designed in the late 1800s to assess large populations which is utterly unsuitable for diagnosing individual patients. Many if not most people who are "obese" according to the BMI charts are perfectly healthy – the tables in question are tabulated for averages, and body types vary a great deal. Incidentally, this goes both ways – many underweight people aren't diagnosed as such due to doctors' mistaken faith in BMI.

This is not an unimportant issue. It affects social stigma (and therefore stress, ironically leading many people to overeat to compensate). Many people with serious eating disorders go undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and mistreated thanks to the conventional wisdom on the subject: heavy people with anorexia told to eat less, skinny people told they're perfectly healthy.

The issue at hand is a large and complex one, affecting dietary guidelines, exercise regimens, medication prescriptions, social taboos, and other important components of people's lifestyles. Misinformation on this scale has extremely nasty consequences, such as the low-fat craze of the 90s leading to massive amounts of added sugar triggering diabetes in many people (which is NOT caused by excess sugar in the diet, but rather by elevated blood sugar in people with the genetic marker. If you don't have the genetic predisposition, you cannot develop diabetes, period.) We need to educate our governments, our doctors, and the general public in order to combat these pernicious beliefs.

For more on this subject I recommend the Everyday Feminusm article, 6 Must-Read Expert Perspectives That Destroy the War on Obesity


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