Fat shaming is not the same as a health warning


I’ve never been fat, that much is true. I’ve never struggled with weight, but I have been unhealthy and unhappy with my physical appearance before. Now, before I get into this, I want to make it clear that the views I express here are not the views of the company, they are mine and mine alone. My views on this subject come from experience, research, conversations and years of studying media.

I’m in the best shape of my life now, thanks to my wife and a couple of years of dedication on my part. I had to remove the excessive amount of coffee and coke that I was drinking, eliminate lactose and dairy and cut down on refined sugar before I even came close to feeling healthy again, and that was before you factor in occasionally crippling bouts of IBS. The truth is, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I had an incredibly fast metabolism as a child and thanks to that, I never really gained a lot of weight, despite the fact that in my later teenage years and early adulthood, I became a rather sedentary being. That being said, my mindset truly was on the obese side. I was eating to deal with emotions, eating to overcome boredom and just eating in general, the only thing that probably saved me during those years was the ridiculously early schedule I was working on. Waking up at 4 AM to race to your shift at McDonald’s makes it difficult to binge on anything sugary. With all this in mind and the experiences that shaped my life today, I’d like to go ahead and share some important reasons as to why I believe fat shaming is an entirely different beast to obesity awareness.

Look, being a couple of pounds overweight isn’t going to kill you. It’s probably not even going to make a huge difference in your day to day life. The problem is if you enter this frame of thought and have absolutely no worries about the importance of your weight, it becomes extremely difficult to snap out of that cycle. If you’re thinking to yourself, “well, it’s just a couple of pounds, that’s okay,” each time you put on a couple of pounds, eventually you’ll find yourself unable to control the gain. This is the trap into which most obese people fall. There are a lot of pressures in this world, I totally get it, but obesity is a largely controllable aspect of humanity. We’ve allowed it to go so far today thanks to overconsumption and the peddling of unhealthy foods in order to make a profit for those at the top.

That’s another argument, however, which I will save until later in the day. This argument is that whether you choose to lose weight or not, the effects of obesity are undeniably sinister and oftentimes, deadly. According to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control), Obese individuals are at risk for a variety of health disorders, including but not limited to; high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and mental illness. New reports have suggested that many cancers are actually avoidable. The World Health Organisation published a study stating that anywhere between 30-50% of all cancers are actually avoidable, and unsurprisingly, many of these cancers are completely avoidable through lifestyle changes, especially diet. That’s not to say that ALL cancers are caused by obesity because that’s simply not true. What the evidence does say is that with a slight alteration in how we live our lives, we can actually become healthier as individuals and perhaps, more importantly, as a species.

This is the weird territory that we inevitably arrive at when arguing a vital point in 2020.

Is it right to criticise someone for being overweight? Not really.

Is it right to normalise obesity when it’s a dangerous disease? Absolutely not.

So, where then can we find that crucial junction and make everybody happy? Truth is, you can’t. Situations like this have only started to occur recently because we’ve caused them to occur. I do not for one moment condone fat shaming, I don’t think it’s fair to criticise a person when we probably don’t know all the details. That being said, obesity shouldn’t be treated like something normal either. Let’s say you have a really close friend. They’ve been active and healthy for as long as you’ve known them, but recently they started to become really down and have taken to eating their feelings. You notice that over a period of one year, they gain an incredibly unhealthy amount of weight. They’ve stopped walking or cycling, they don’t participate in sport anymore and their diet consists of weeknightly take out with no fruit or veg. What’s your duty of care in that situation? When does it become your responsibility to act as a close friend and give them the push they need to work toward being healthy again? A lot of psychologists would encourage you to give them the push that they needed. Weight loss and staying healthy is extremely hard if you don’t have the right social circle at your dispense.

That’s the thing, if we all acted this way to our friends, family, lovers, colleagues, partners etc, there would be very little room for obesity to become normalised.

Being obese is bad, we’ve established that. Statistically, it’s unlikely to be a physical thing, but again, we don’t have all the facts, so it’s unfair for us to make a snap judgement. What I will say is this; balance is key. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, oh that’s so cliched, and you’d be right, but cliches exist for a reason! Even as a somewhat healthy individual, I find balance extremely hard to manage.

There are so many temptations around us nowadays. I challenge anyone to tell me that there’s a McDonald’s more than 10 minutes drive away from their house (in major western civilizations). That’s the thing though, balance is what makes us so unique as humans. There are no other animals who have the capability to think, “I’ve probably had enough of that.” Cats are the only beings that come even close and even their aptitude for “fullness” is limited.

We are given such a wonderful tool that allows us to acknowledge our equilibrium, so why do we ignore it so much?

Simple, because we’ve become lazy.

As a species, we don’t need to consider what we’re eating or why any more. Food is so readily available that we no longer have to consider the ramifications of eating it. Remember killing your last chicken, taking off the feathers, pulling out the organs and cooking it? That’s the point. You don’t, because you don’t need to. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian and I regularly buy meat from the supermarkets, but I do try my best to consider what and why I’m eating the way I am. I believe those questions are so important in our lives and that when it comes down to it, the way to avoid obesity is to think. Think positive and think hard. Please, don’t get all up in arms about fat-shaming when you see a poster from the NHS. Similarly, don’t criticise someone if you don’t have all the facts. I believe that there will be a utopia in the future, I probably won’t see it and neither will you, but we have the responsibility to ensure that there’s a possibility of a wonderful society with few diseases and lots of renewable resources in the future.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by any of the content in this article, please visit your doctor as soon as possible. If you feel like your weight is negatively affecting your life, please try to do something about it and know that with determination, you can achieve anything.

Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer

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