Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Losing the Weight Stigma

“The public-health crusade of the moment is a no-holds-barred war on obesity. Those waging it don’t have time for subtlety. When Senator Christopher Dodd introduced the Obesity Prevention Act of 2008 this summer, he called obesity ‘a medical emergency of hurricanelike proportions” that is wreaking havoc “on our families, on our society and on our health care system.’ But some activists and academics, part of a growing social movement known as fat acceptance, suggest that we rethink this war — as well as our definition of health itself. Fat-acceptance activists insist you can’t assume someone is unhealthy just because he’s fat, any more than you can assume someone is healthy just because he’s slim. (They deliberately use the word ‘fat’ as a way to reclaim it, much the way some gay rights activists use the word ‘queer.’) Rather, they say, we should focus on health measurements that are more meaningful than numbers on a scale. This viewpoint received a boost in August when The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that fully half of overweight adults and one-third of the obese had normal blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar — indicating a normal risk for heart disease and diabetes, conditions supposedly caused by being fat. This is a core argument of fat acceptance: that it’s possible to be healthy no matter how fat you are and that weight loss as a goal is futile, unnecessary and counterproductive — and that fatness is nobody’s business but your own.”

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