Please read my follow up to this post here. I’m not afraid to admit when I might be wrong.

It’s time to get controversial my friends. It doesn’t take an astute observer to note that we live in country where being fat is the norm. With about 170 million overweight adults and children in the United States, the number of overweight people outnumbers those at a healthier weight (119-149 lbs for a 5’5” woman). In fact, Americans are becoming so overweight that further classification for how overweight an individual is has become necessary. In 2000 the World Health Organization published a classification system that broke obesity into three classes: I, II, and III. For example, for someone to fall into class III obesity he or she would have to weigh at least 241 lbs at 5’5”.  With scary statistics galore about the health problems associated with obesity: diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis just to name a few, one would think that most overweight individuals would work toward developing a healthier body, or at least know that they should be doing that. But alas, that is not the case.

In browsing the Internet lately for health and fitness related blogs, I came across a movement of sorts centered around fat-acceptance. When I hear the term fat-acceptance a very important question comes to mind: am I being asked to accept a person regardless of the fact that he or she is fat or am I being asked to accept that being fat is good and healthy? Let me give you a little history. According to a psychology class I took in college, overweight/obese people are the most discriminated against group in the US, more so than homosexuals, people of different races or religions, or the elderly. It’s harder for obese people to get jobs, get promoted, get a bank loan, and adopt a child. Obese people fare worse in court; they receive subtle discrimination from doctors, and are passed over for college scholarships and letters of recommendation from professors. When you view the fat-acceptance movement in light of the outright discrimination overweight people face, it’s easy to see where the momentum comes from. But…and this is a very big but (no pun intended), is the unequal treatment ever warranted?

Because statistics show that overweight people will have more health problems should they pay more for health insurance? Should an overweight person be denied a job because he or she might not be able to meet its physical demands? Should a larger person have to pay for two seats on the plane if one is insufficient? Where do you draw the line between discrimination and facing the consequences for poor health choices you made? Or in other words, is accommodating obesity the responsibility of the obese individual or the world in which that person lives?

While I whole-heartedly believe an overweight person should NEVER be stereotyped as lazy, stupid, irresponsible, greedy, or gluttonous, I also believe that I shouldn’t be charged with discrimination or hate mongering for saying I think it is unhealthy to be fat. I think the fat-acceptance group’s initial attempt to fight discrimination has morphed into people ardently defending their right to be fat, and anyone who suggests their obesity might be a problem is wrong. In some ways, it is denial at its finest.

For example, some people entrenched in the fat-acceptance movement purport that health is independent of body weight, and the risks associated with obesity have been exaggerated to cover for cultural prejudices against fat. Some even argue that obesity has not been found to be the cause of any health problems. Additionally, a segment of people within the movement view fat people who are trying to lose weight as deserters of the cause and thin people as the enemy. A recent blog I read condemned Jamie Oliver’s new show called Food Revolution. In it, Jamie fights for healthier, less processed foods to be served to kids in pubic schools. The author claimed that he was being a condescending ass for trying to impart his beliefs on the school system, and that he openly supporting fat hatred. What?! Since when is trying to feed kids healthier food evil? But I digress…

Think about it this way. If you were smoking and your doctor said to stop because it causes health problems would you be offended? If you were an alcoholic and your doctor told you that you needed to go to rehab and stop drinking, is he being discriminatory and hateful? I see obesity in the same light. If you are obese, there is a very good chance that you are not healthy, and when a doctor says, you need to eat less/healthier and move more he is only saying what will be best for your health in the long run. Yes, if you want to be fat you can be fat… just don’t get mad because other people think you are making an unhealthy decision.

NOTE: And these are some very important notes because of the complexity of the issue and the limited space I have to blog.

1) I know a lot of the struggles people have with obesity go way behind choosing to eat healthy or not. I am not suggesting it is that simple. Obesity has an enormous amount of contributing factors: socioeconomic status, availability of healthy foods and education on nutrition, genetics, and a hundred other environmental factors.

2) I think it is wrong on all levels to assume anything negative about a person’s character, morality, or personality because he or she is overweight.

3) I know it is possible to be unhealthy and at normal weight…hence the popular expression “skinny-fat.” And I believe all people with unhealthy diet or lifestyle habits should be held accountable, and then offered the support and information necessary to change those habits if they see fit.

4) If a person eats moderately healthy and leads a moderately active lifestyle and his or her body is still fat, then that is exactly how that person’s body should be. We are all genetically different and should accept/welcome those difference as long as they stem from a healthy lifestyle. What I fear is happening is that some fat people are using the fat-acceptance movement as validation for their unhealthy lifestyle.

Here is an example of a blog that supports fat acceptance in case you want to check it out:

And here’s a fat-acceptance attitude I can get behind: