April 1, 2016

Fat, Health, and Ignorance

I have spent over 20 years dedicated to education, research, study, teaching, speaking, and working to spread the word about fat and health.  Additionally, there are hundreds of academics, journalists, and researchers out there doing the very same thing (with probably more impact that little old me). Although I see hints of a true understanding, I am still in awe and disbelief that we (the global we) could still be so ignorant, not to mention extremely judgie, about the facts and fiction around fat and health.
Did his meals make him this way? From genetics, environment, and mental health, to diet, exercise, and social influences there is more to fat than meets the (blind) eye.  Unfortunately, kids are going to bearing the brunt of our fat shaming through disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise.  Wait for it.
 Although the research is extensive, academically sound, and indisputable (given the number of participants and years of study) health practitioners, organizations, and those hanging on to old ways of thinking continue to state that an excess of body fat is unhealthy.  Today, coming back from a few days of leave, I learned that my employer will be adding a "health" measurement to the already existing fitness test.  What is this new health-related measure measuring? Each employee will have to have a waist circumference measure to help identify those in the unhealthy range of body fat.

Now...I know there are studies to suggest that the old hip to waist ratio is the one effective measurement because storing fat in the trunk runs a higher risk for all sorts of nasty stuff.  If one were to pull the primary literature, read it in full, and apply some critical thought to it...you would find that there is no mention or examination of the effects exercise and eating a healthy (veggie based) diet has on the health of someone carrying more fat in the trunk than the next person.  Nothing. That would take too much time and too much money.

So we continue to believe that fat (especially the fat that lies around our organs) is evil and must be destroyed.  Today, Yahoo.ca also posted an article about the growing rates of global obesity and the suggestion that we (the global we) should be turning to surgery as a way to fight the battle.  If you don't believe me (because you are wise, all knowing, and educated) check it out.  While I realize there are some health complications that relate to severe obesity, and surgery may be the only alternative, I am concerned that we may be jumping the gun a bit and forgetting about the myriad of complications that come from such surgeries. 

Not only that, we continue to blame the victim, their (assumed) diet, their (assumed) activity level and make some terrible assumptions about their intelligence, cleanliness, and demeanor.  This is referred to as fat shaming and is probably more prevalent now than ever before as our society continues to support the thin body ideal. Just look at Cheryl Tiegs's reaction to the "plug-sized" model on the Sports Illustrated cover. I don't know which is worse; her ignorance over fat and health or her commitment to the words of Dr. Oz. 
If you were to dive into the hsitory of fat, body, health, politics, and gender, you would find this stuff ain't new.  This is an example of our more recent history, yet the first diet originated from the 1800s and it wasn't until the 1920s, the age of consumerism, that the thin ideal became in fashion (you can thanks the religious groups for this).  I'm not going to get into the relatioship between body shaming and the suffergets. That's another vent for another time.
Obesity may be a problem and it may lead to new stressors on our health care system, but to paint everyone with the same brush is not only ignorant but inexcusable with everything we now know.  To refuse to evolve in understanding the true relationship between health, fat, diet, exercise, environment, mental heatlh, social health, and the pollutants in our food and other products is like still believing the earth is flat.  Until we open our eyes, apply a tiny (doesn't have to be that big) amount of critical thinking, and see that it isn't about fat we will continue measuring waistlines and fail to examine other important contributors. 

That's all I got.

K

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