No dude you are wrong. We need to be on the offensive. We need to be agressive. A change in tactics sure, but look at what the most common killer in America. Actually 3 of the most common killers occur from obesity. Food corporations are finding cheaper and more eco destructive ways of making food. Pussyfooting around and telling people everything is going to be okay and love yourself the way you are and don't change when it's in many ways a very real American crisis is absolutely immoral
In philosophy, there are strategies for effective communication (such as the principle of charity and the steel man) that encourage thinkers not only strive to accurately understand the other person’s argument but to even address particularly strong versions of their argument. These are strategies that aim to prevent folks from just talking past one another. Charitable interpretations of arguments can also help with our own critical thinking skills and aid in keeping our biases in check. This is all, of course, assuming that one actually wants to partake in meaningful and fruitful dialogue with others and not just expel self-congratulatory rhetoric into the void. I may be assuming too much here. Regardless, a good starting point for communication is to take some steps to ensure that you’re actually addressing the other person’s argument. Nowhere have I offered up feel-good platitudes like ‘everything is going to be okay’ or ‘just love yourself’ or ‘don’t change.’ Such vapid claims are not helpful because they ignore the uncertainty and vast complexity of the real world. Empty platitudes do a disservice to the nuance that pretty much every issue—if we hope to approach a meaningful understanding of it—actually calls for in this messy world of ours.
Ignoring complexity can, as an example, lead people to think things like ‘obesity is a killer’ or an ‘epidemic’. Fatness, by itself, very likely does not kill, nor is it a disease that is spreading. People conflate fatness with real killers like heart disease because they think that fatness causes heart attacks. But this is likely false. Obesity might make your risk of heart attack higher, but even then, the literature is surprisingly complex. Nutrition and health science is notoriously young and misunderstood, and this includes the science behind body weight. Again, the complexities of these issues are all too often washed out in favor of sound bites and palatable narratives. But once you dive in, you find that it’s difficult to even effectively define what it means to be overweight. The vast majority of people, according to the highly arbitrary but ubiquitous BMI, are considered overweight or obese. But most people aren’t dying as a result. And, moreover, weight loss is not necessarily linked to lower levels of disease. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that there are not certain health risks that are strongly correlated with having an extremely high body fat percentage. This is no doubt the case (though correlation does not equal causation). Nor am I saying that it wouldn’t be better for some fat people to pursue weight loss. That is their and their doctor’s prerogative. What I am saying is that it is not fat in itself that is unhealthy. Indeed, some studies show that having ‘extra weight’ can actually increase our life expectancy (something known as ‘the obesity paradox’). The whole point here is that it’s possible to be fat and healthy, just as much as it’s possible to be skinny and unhealthy. Except under the most extreme ends of the bell curve, weight by itself is not a good indicator of health. WEIGHT BY ITSELF IS NOT A GOOD INDICATOR OF HEALTH. Far more useful indicators are things like blood pressure and cholesterol. But, again (because I can’t say it enough), you can be fat, even obese, and be healthy, complete with low blood pressure and low cholesterol and all.
But if it’s possible to be fat and healthy and skinny and unhealthy, then why are we more worried about fat bodies than we are about high blood pressure and high cholesterol? Why do so many people feel entitled to make judgments about fat bodies instead of focusing on other, more relevant variables? The answer is clear. It’s because our culture hates fat people. We are fat-phobic. Our image-obsessed society has deemed fat as ugly—a visible marker of moral, mental, and physical failure. We spend tens of billions of dollars a year, not on being genuinely happy and healthy but on desperately trying to achieve superficial standards set for us by the rich and famous. Sure, this propaganda is sometimes veiled in health-speak, but we all know what it’s really about: slimming our waistlines and getting that 'beach body’.
On top of all this, it’s about damn time that we confront the reality that it is of no help to anyone to shame or police people’s physical appearance. Long-term weight loss has proven to be exceptionally difficult and rare. Indeed, 97 percent of dieters regain everything they lost and then some within three years. 97 percent. Fat people do not, on the whole, get skinny and stay skinny. This does not mean that us fat folk cannot be healthy!! We can eat moderately and exercise and get all of our nutritional and physical needs and still remain fat. What this does mean, though, is that so long as we propagate a culture that teaches us that fat is ugly and wrong and disgusting, then it doesn’t matter how healthy fat people get, we will continue to be ashamed of our bodies and exercise less and experience higher rates of suicide and depression and anxiety. We will continue to be bullied and harassed at increasing rates. Shame and hostility do not help people. They make things far worse. Perpetuating a simplistic and harmful fat-shaming narrative, as if fat people don’t know we’re fat and we need skinny people to keep us in check, doesn’t do anything but continue to hurt people. Frankly, it’s a bit exasperating that I have to say this, but don’t shame people you want to help. Don’t do that. And also realize that your words sometimes unintentionally hurt and shame people, and the impact isn’t erased just because that’s not what you meant to happen. If you’re genuinely concerned about others, then cultivate humility, work hard to figure out ways to effectively communicate, and educate yourself on the complexities. Shame and punishment are practically ineffective and morally wrong strategies for real change. So if we do, in fact, want a healthier society, physically and mentally, then we must foster a more nuanced, kinder approach to body image and fatness. Encouraging reasonable body acceptance isn’t hokey, idealistic, romantic bullshit—it’s a concrete and compassionate strategy for making people happier and healthier. It is, in short, the right thing to do.
There’s so much more to address here, but this post is already fat enough. I haven’t mentioned the complexities and impacts of class and poverty on weight, or the broader issue of body-policing that disproportionately impacts women, or people’s vested interest in thin privilege (’I work hard to be thin, I’ve earned this’) that may motivate fear of fatness, the side-lining of fat issues in social justice circles, the pernicious and persistent medicalizing of fat bodies, the naive notion that body weight is merely a matter of choice and willpower… The list goes on. Ultimately, though, we must work to avoid simplistic, culturally-implanted narratives that serve to further marginalize entire groups of folks. We ought to strive to find and implement patient, flexible, and compassionate approaches to the world, ones that make it a better place for more creatures. We will find that shame and aggression typically are not the best ways to go about this.