Imagine that an epidemic has struck America.
It kills thousands every year, costs the nation’s healthcare system billions, attacks children at young ages, and affects more than one-third of the population.
Despite the destruction, the epidemic could have been easily avoided — or at least abated — with simple lifestyle changes.
Did the press warn the country of its impending, but avoidable doom? No. Instead, the media encouraged Americans to simply accept their fate.
Unfortunately, this is exactly how America is responding to its obesity epidemic by encouraging fat acceptance.
It is perfectly reasonable to expect, and even to demand, that people treat each other with respect, regardless of their weight; but it’s quite another thing to demand that society accept a deleterious health condition as perfectly normal.
We can see how this mentality plays out in the viral photo of an oversized woman sharing a picture of herself in an oversized top. The woman, Rachel Taylor, took the photo in response to alleged “anti-fat” comments she overheard at an Old Navy store. The fellow shoppers — a mom and a daughter — cheerfully remarked that they could both fit into a plus-size top.
This upset the plus-size Taylor, so she decided to take a photo of herself in that very top to prove that her body is great just the way it is. Her post received thousands of likes and shares. Buzzfeed applauded Taylor and wrote that she was both “fierce” and “awesome.”
Now it is fine if this woman wants to feel good about herself, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that she has a healthy body. And this case is only one of many examples of a popular trend that seeks to portray a health problem as a self-esteem issue.
The Huffington Post, Jezebel and several other left-leaning outlets have several articles with the tag “fat acceptance,” and the pieces seem to all overlook the health risks associated with obesity in favor of “loving your body.” That’s a serious mischaracterization of the issue.
Granted, there is a difference between being obese and overweight, and this distinction can’t get lost in the whole fat acceptance discussion. The majority of Americans are considered overweight, yet many of those who fall in this category are fairly healthy and are larger than normal for a variety of reasons that aren’t necessarily due to poor lifestyle choices.
Obesity is defined by an accumulation of excess fat that is bound to negatively affect a person’s health, which makes it a significantly greater problem than being merely overweight. Here’s what the experts say are the risks posed by this ailment:
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Abnormal blood fats
- Metabolic syndrome
- Some forms of cancer
- Sleep apnea
Obese people need to seek help, rather than acceptance — especially when the tools for fighting against this ailment are so simple. Doctors recommend diet and exercise as the most effective measures for managing the dangers associated with this disorder.
Body image acceptance is not one of the doctor-recommended measures for combating obesity.
One of the worst aspects of this epidemic — and perhaps the cause of the fat acceptance movement — is the alarming rate of childhood obesity. An astonishing 18 percent of children are considered obese, a grim indicator of the America’s fat future.
Yet, as the website for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative notes, one of the harmful results for kids with this condition is “social discrimination.” Children can be cruel sometimes and fat kids are often singled out for harassment. As a society, we hate this kind of bullying and we would prefer if our youth we’re nicer to each other, regardless of their differences.
Thus, the idea of fat acceptance becomes more appealing when we’re promoting it as a method to stop bullying. But the physical risks are still there with children, and the best way to prevent harassment and the terrible health costs of obesity is still diet and exercise. Not only will this improve the confidence and health of a child, it will also create the foundation for positive habits that can stay with a person for the rest of their life.
The last conceivable reason to argue for fat acceptance is the supposed libertarian case for it: accepting private choice. As a woman who brags about taking up space argued for Psychology Today, governments and other powerful organizations shouldn’t tell citizens what to weigh.
That could be a good point… if taxpayers didn’t have to foot the bill for the life choices of obese people.
Medical treatment relating to obesity is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $150 billion every year. That accounts for ten percent of America’s total annual health spending. How much of that is covered by Joe Q. Taxpayer? $62 billion. It’s estimated that we could get back nearly 12 percent of the funds given to Medicaid and Medicare every year if obesity didn’t exist.
The cost of treating the effects of this epidemic will only grow in the coming years as the obesity rate continues to rise.
So you can eat to your heart’s content, refuse to exercise and claim it’s a personal choice all you want. But when society has to cover the cost for your lack of discipline, then it’s more than a personal choice.
That’s why we should think of fat acceptance as no different than embracing measles. We have a serious crisis on our hands and the last thing we need to do is tell fat people that they’re fine. They’re not.
Of course, let’s treat each other with respect — obese people should stop selfishly charging taxpayers billions for their own poor choices and take responsibility for their actions.
If there’s one thing America should accept, it’s that it’s time to lose a few.