Saturday, August 22, 2015

Is it smart to be proud of obesity? (Light the blue touch paper and retire immediately)

I have a problem with being fat. I'm over-weight (though not obese) and trying not to be, though it isn't easy to lose the weight as someone with restricted mobility. I have enough health problems, without obesity making them worse. I also have a problem with other people being fat when they seem to think it's OK, even desirable, to be fat, and promote it as a lifestyle choice.

Tess Holliday
This post was prompted by a thread on Facebook today, where the subject of "fat-shaming" came up. In America, it seems that you have to be very careful what you say about obese people, for fear of being charged with a hate crime. In response to criticism, some women (it's mostly women) have adopted a "fat and proud" stance. The recent visit of size 26 supermodel Tess Holliday to the UK, where she signed up with a British model agency, attracted hoards of fat fans who adore her because of her attitude. She's tweeted, "To the people that fight on my social media: I don't give a fuck. Get a therapist, phone a psychic or eat a fuckin' burger ... grow up."

The World Health Organisation says, "The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended." In other words, eating too much. Couldn't be simpler. Yes, I know it's not easy, with all those tempting high calorie things out there just falling into your shopping bag and, like any other addiction, it's hard to quit. But there must be a balance between fat-shaming or bullying and being "proud" of a condition that's a major risk factor in noncommunicable diseases such as:
  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading causes of death in 2012;
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis - a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).
The increase in cases of diabetes has been reported as overwhelming the NHS, costing £25,000 a minute, while you're a drain on the public purse even when you're dead, if you're fat; I've blogged about that before.

So, excuse me if I'm not proud of being fat and I don't expect anyone to find it attractive. I'm eating less (small plates, no snacks) and slowly losing the weight. You can click on my Just Giving link (right) to encourage me. And I don't think it's clever to try to be a fat role model, like Ms Holliday. Her obesity is, of course, highly visible, but no less a problem than an invisible one like alcoholism or smoking. They all damage health. How can you be proud of that? Maybe it's time that more fat people were less proud?

Photograph: Sergiy Barchuk for the Guardian.


Mary Lipscombe said...

People should not comment on anyone's weight, it is nobody's business. My late brother had a problem with his weight and he paid privately to have a gastric sleeve, according to his doctor, he just fell short of the weight for which the National Health Service will operate. He had a problem with his hormones, it was a continuous embarrassment to him, especially when insensitive people made insulting and hurtful remarks. His operation worked well and he lost weight gradually, he was thrilled to bits. So people just zip your mouths, you do not know anything about being obese.

Margaret Nelson said...

Mary, you clearly feel defensive on behalf of your brother, but there's a big difference between his weight problem and the issue that I was attempting to draw attention to, which is being proud of obesity and a role model for young women.

It is other people's business when someone's positively encouraging others to be or stay fat. As the WHO says, most fat people are fat because they eat too much, especially food that's high in calories but low in nutritional value. Only a small minority can claim that their hormones are responsible. The increasing number of obese children get that way through a combination of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. The inevitable bullying they suffer may compound the problem, as they hide away, eat for comfort and become even less active.

No, I won't zip my mouth as long as there are foolish people like Tess Holliday around. She courts publicity so can't complain about the criticism.

jim derby said...

So your perfect are you Margaret Nelson,I think not,and I think if anyone ever made comment about you,you would hate it! Live and let live

Margaret Nelson said...

Don't be silly! Of course not, but the point of the post isn't about being fat, but about Ms Holliday's malign influence on her fans, as I've already written.