Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's Bad to Be Fat

It's bad to be fat. It's bad for your body.

Agreement, so far? We all know this. The medical community is pretty much solidly behind the idea.

Big guy. 
But in a world in which the the popular concept of "freedom" is that nothing is wrong and that nothing that can be considered "offensive" can be said, one has to -- unless he is wearing a lab coat -- be careful about saying that it is bad to be fat. (Not only that, but a word other than "fat" needs to be used...)

One might, heaven forbid, become a "body-shamer."

So, obesity, slowly but surely, has become "curvy" and women have started to "own" their obesity -- to strut their obesity. No one is allowed to say anything, because it is okay to be "big and beautiful."

Sure it is okay. As long as you don't want to live a long and active life. As long as you don't mind little diabetic inconveniences, later in life, like blindness and amputations. As long as you are cool with a fatal myocardial infarction at forty-five. Sure -- go ahead. Be big and beautiful. And you can be beautiful at any weight; it's just not good for you. If you can be fat and beautiful but still be beautiful if you are thin, the logical choice is to be thin and beautiful, for you. It ain't easy, but it does make sense.

We a culture of extremes; of the proverbial pendulum. A normal woman of average weight is "plus-sized" in the modeling world and a woman who is morbidly obese is "curvy" in popular discourse. Sophia Loren is curvy. Melissa McCarthy is obese. Sophia, as far as I know, remains healthy in her eighties. Melissa might not be so lucky -- though I hope she lives to be a hundred, God-willing.

And guys? The "dad-bod" is now, according to the media, officially "in." I hear men saying, I'm a "big guy." But I would argue that while Liam Neeson, at 6'4and about 225, is a "big guy," John Candy was fat -- and how I miss him; maybe my favorite comic actor of all time.

Of course, I am not suggesting that we go around telling people how fat they are, but that we should stop teaching our children, by tip-toeing examples born out of a collective social desire to make everyone feel perfect, that all of the pressure is off when it comes to body size.
Obese guy. 

Anorexia and bulimia are still horrifyingly prevalent problems, especially for young women, but for men, too. For God's sake, lets get the message out that your average American woman is in the 160s, not in the 120s. Let's get the impossible role models in check; let's get the word out that 140 is plenty sexy. But let's not send the message that obesity is a good choice.

As with everything, balance is the key: let's not encourage obesity and let's not set impossible expectations of skinniness. Can we do this? Fat is fat. and it just is not good for your body.

I and mine have worked hard to fight being fat for as long as I can remember. For me it is a quest meant to help me, when I am older, to "go down standin' up." I want to be strong as long as I can. Sure, I think I look much better at 205 than I do at 240, but there's stuff that is more important than that. And I can't stand by and watch my sons eat themselves into bad health. It has to be about facts; not image. It has to be about logic and not emotion.

If we can't be honest, the Utopia of Non-Offense that we are trying to create is worthless.


  1. You're treading on dangerous ground. One of the few times I got a negative comment on my blog was in response to piece I wrote about a visit to France, where I noticed how few fat people there were, in spite of the cheeses and rich food. Someone called Megan responded "I am so glad you were able to find a spot that was devoid of fat people like me."

    I replied to Megan that I'd seen my dad's life ruined by heart disease and his slow death after a stroke wasn't something I'd wish on anyone, but I don't think she was convinced.

    There seems to be a school of thought that being negative about large people is another ism, like racism and sexism. But while we can't choose our sex or race, we can diet.

    I don't want to make big people feel uncomfortable in their own skin, but neither do I want to normalise a state that shortens one's life span, with associated conditions like diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure.

    If we're going to tackle the issue, we have to stop celebrating the unrealistically skinny look and encourage a healthy body shape that all people can relate to. Then we have to nudge people to make those small but important lifestyle changes: walking at least 5,000 steps a day, cutting down on sugar and watching the saturated fats.

    I know there's no simple answer, but obesity levels also seem to be tied to income and education - you don't see as many fat people on the streets of London or New York - so we should try to get the message across at an early age.

    1. Steerforth -- I have learned, on several occasions, that there are things I am not, in the eyes of some readers, entitled to have an opinion about because I am either the wrong sex or the wrong ethnicity, etc. Perhaps being someone who knows the struggle of weight-gain and loss, I am validated as a speaker on the subject. The "Megans" won't think so, but there's not avoiding that... Still, we do know what we know: being fat is bad for us, self-esteem and political correctness aside...

  2. The modern identification of slimness with social status does not help matters; now the overweight can be lectured by persons who are not only thinner but richer. And the better off do not always distinguish their material advantages from moral superiority. That might have something to do with Megan's attitude.