Why evidence doesn’t matter in the “obesity epidemic”

It has long been known, and has been recently proven yet again in yet another mega-study, that “that overweight individuals had a lower risk of premature death than so-called normal weight individuals and there was no relationship between being somewhat obese and the rate of early death. Only among people in the high range of obesity was there a correlation between their weight and a higher risk of premature death.”

If the “normal” weight range for American adults was reconfigured back to the range which correlated to HEALTH, then “79% of the people we currently shame for being overweight or obese would be recategorized as perfectly fine. Ideal, even. Pleased to be plump, let’s say, knowing that a body that is a happy balance of soft and strong is the kind of body that will carry them through a lifetime.” This means the “obesity epidemic” is baloney by any discernable measurement of health.

The health crisis in America is a metabolic health crisis that has nothing to do with the circumference of your hips or your lack of thigh-gap. Diabetes, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, kidney disease – all that jazz – is much more closely linked to the consumption of sugar and processed food and artificial sweetener than weight. Fat/overweight people don’t axiomatically eat more sugary & processed foods than thin people. You can get fat off of “good” foods too. I am living proof.

Health is also effected by a sedentary life-style. A fat/overweight person who exercises even moderately is “healthier” than a thin person who leads a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I have a standing desk and do yoga. I am “metabolically fit” according to all my recent medical bloodwork. I also have a great big butt. My large booty and vast upper arms have meant that some doctors have seemed surprised or even disappointed that I am physically healthy. I don’t go back to those doctors; I go to doctors who are pleased with my health and encourage me to maintain my healthy behaviors.

Sadly, many fat/overweight people have learned to avoid seeking medical care because no matter what their symptoms the standard answer is that they need to lose a little weight. Worse, we can tell when health care professionals are judging us and finding us ‘unworthy’ of help and health, thus leaving people feeling to ashamed to go get health care. It’s not in our heads, either. Studies have found that “over 50% of doctors find fat patients “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment” and 28% of nurses said that they were “repulsed” by their obese patients.   Mary Huizinga of Johns Hopkins found that “The higher a patient’s body mass, the less respect doctors express for that patient.  And the less respect a doctor has for a patient the less time they spend with that patient and the less information he or she offers.” 

The bias against fat/overweight patients means fat/overweight people are misdiagnosed and undiagnosed in terrifyingly large percentages. Don’t think this medical bias would apply to you? Think again. A “recent Yale study suggested that weight bias can start when a woman is as little as 13 pounds over her highest healthy weight.” In effect, you can be in the healthiest cohort of Americans and yet your physician may still judge you as too weak-willed and noncompliant to bother with.

Why do doctors have these biases, when their assumptions are counter-factual and repeatedly proven to be so?

The answer is simple: most doctors and nurses and other health care professionals have grown up in the same cultural environment as other Americans and have been bombarded with overt and sublet messaging that fat is repulsive, that it is visual evidence of sloth and gluttony, and that it denotes an “inferior” specimen of humanity. Is it surprising that they should view fat/overweight patients as repulsive, ugly, and weak-willed? Medical professionals, contrary to their portrayals as being ‘above’ culture and susceptible only to hard facts, are human beings with the same enculturated subconscious assumptions as the rest of the USA.

Meanwhile, hysterical stories about the “obesity epidemicproliferate, completely ignoring factual data showing that fat itself isn’t deadly and the rise of heart disease and diabetes is more about American food stables and lifestyle than America’s pants size.  Sadly, this is coloring the perceptions of another generation of future medical students.


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