I’ve been learning more about obesity and how it appears to increase the risk for disease. Key word there is “appears”. But before I get into that, I think we’d all agree that it’s just obvious that obesity negatively affects health in some ways. Some obese people can go decades with excellent blood panels and be otherwise healthy, but the extra weight can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.
In my nutrition studies I heard a lecture by Dr. Barry Sears where he underlined that obesity and disease are correlational and not necessarily causational. In other words, obesity is present in a large number of those with disease but we can’t prove if it’s the obesity causing the disease or if the two just happen at the same time.
Studies in the near future should really make this area more clear to us.
In the meantime, this information, coupled with this country’s weight obsession and the fact that people assume a person is healthy simply by looking at their weight, should really change the way we approach health.
I wrote recently about the law of attraction. When we as a society focus on fixing obesity, you know what we are collectively doing? We are focusing on obesity. Instead of focusing on health. Some would argue that a focus on reducing obesity is a focus on health. But essentially it’s not because as humans, we look for the quickest solution to our problems and a focus on obesity means we focus on things like a reduction in calories, low fat, low sugar, foods that promise to reduce weight, products that promise to help us reduce the pounds, etc. Food marketers are pretty smart and have zeroed in on our thoughts and have created a billion products just for us. And the majority of these products are full of the very substances that caused us our problems in the first place.
What if we focused on a health based approach? Instead of screening people on their BMI, what if we took their blood pressure and conducted blood tests for their hormones, blood sugar, lipids, and white blood cell count? Not only would this help many thin people suffering from fatty liver disease and high cholesterol and early stages of cancer, but it would send our society the message that just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy and just because you’re fat, it doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy.
Obesity can’t be too comfortable. Physically, it feels nice to have a weight that doesn’t make it difficult to breathe or move. But, I fear it’s extremely uncomfortable because of society’s view of obesity. We’re so advanced right? And yet, future generations are going to shake their heads in pitiful disbelief when they read about how we treated fat people. Not to mention how we were willing to assume and judge before truly understanding.
I was generally pleased that Michelle Obama has been highlighting childhood obesity and yet I’ve always felt like the mark was missed. Now I know how I feel about the initiative. Hearts are in the right place but the approach is based on weight when it should be based on health and society’s access to the basic components of health. Right now, more than ever, we need to teach our children about real foods and healthy habits without calling them fat (honestly, if I was a large kid, that would depress me). We don’t need them to get on some chemical laden “nutritional” diet drink. We need to work to provide all areas in our country with fresh, affordable food, proper nutritional information, and perhaps teach the basics of food and cooking in schools, rather than teach people how less calories equals less weight gain. Who in their right mind is going to say, “Yes, I feel empowered now that I know I just need to eat less and move more.” Obese people have fat cells that work differently than other people’s. Their cells literally make them feel hungry, very often. And as I’ve said before and will say again, who will endure hunger indefinitely when they don’t have to? Who other than someone with an illness, such as an anorexic?
With all this focus on the extra weight issue, we’re avoiding making the message really straightforward and we’re avoiding doing the right things to increase our nation’s health. We don’t want our congressmen, those who can change crucial laws, to think, “Ok, so we’re trying to get the obese people to adopt a healthy lifestyle…check.” No, we need them to see the true challenges that many thin and not so thin people have when it comes to eating healthy. How about subsidizing fruits and vegetables for starters, eh? Maybe then people’s cells could get the nutrients they need and would stop asking for so much food?
Obesity and it’s links to type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, fatty liver disease, etc, are very complex. Let’s respect that fact so that we can respect those who are being stigmatized-the very thing we all hate to happen to us. And let’s focus on the actions that will actually help us. Checking out our insides instead of our outsides only and helping people make better lifestyle choices because they want to be healthy, not because they want to be thin. I don’t think it will happen with our overemphasis on “you’re too big”.
I didn’t lose weight by thinking I was too big and needed to drop weight, by the way. I did that for years and only got bigger. I lost weight by getting into the habit of thinking, “I’m beautiful, I matter, and I want to learn how to take care of myself”.
It’s time for our country to adopt a health based approach. One where self love isn’t a joke or an ego driven ideal but a standard for treatment starting with oneself and extending to all others.