Not exactly the uplifting/inspirational/silly tone I typically go for.....but we have something to talk about (sits you down, looks at you with break up face).
Our fear of fat has been created.
Misleading research & statistics published by respected authorities and propagated by experts (often inadvertently) have encouraged the development of a long list of misguided beliefs about weight and health that I like to call: The Cultural Virus.
Attention spans are short and I can't address it all in one post so, for now, I'm just going to focus on 2 major sources/foundations for The Virus:
1. A not-so-great study done by the The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). They published a report in the prestigious Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) that relayed this information: "More than 400,000 Americans die of overweight and obesity every year, so many that it may soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death". (1)
The media WENT WILD!!!!! The info was spread everywhere and is the "scientific" foundation of our intense fear of gaining weight.
The problem: an updated federal report showed computational errors in the original report and, when corrected, the risk of disease death related to overweight/obesity was reduced FIFTEEN FOLD. The new number of deaths associated with being overweight/obese? 26,000/year.....far fewer than alcohol or car crashes. (2)
In addition, it was shown that overweight people actually live longer and that the majority of deaths related to obesity occur in the very extreme ranges of BMI. (2)
But the CDC didn't mention the errors. Instead, they created a war on fat and continue to encourage fat reduction as a treatment for a number of diseases.
2. Epidemiological studies that make correlation look like causation.....what I mean is, most of what we know about the relationship between health and weight has been drawn from studies that are looking for associations. Association does not equal causation. Just because there are many over weight people with health issues does not mean that the weight CAUSED the health issue. There are "many obese people who are healthy and don't suffer from diseases we tend to blame on weight, and a considerable proportion of "normal weight" people are prone to cardiac and metabolic abnormalities we blame on obesity". (3)(4)(5)
Poor lifestyle (sedentary people are more likely to put on weight AND be at risk for certain diseases), diet history (extreme weight loss methods have been linked to increased incidence of disease), reduced access to health care, lower socioeconomic status, etc., are all better predictors of disease and early death.....and are also associated with higher rates of overweight/obesity.
But don't quit now! We're just getting to the good (read: understandable) stuff.....
Am I encouraging people to gain weight? Am I endorsing a nation wide Jos Louis eating contest where we all get as obese as possible? Not quite.
My point is this: We have been taught to believe that fat is BAD and the underlying message is that people who have more fat are "bad" by association (no will power, not smart enough, sick, etc). Scientific evidence has been used to support our shaming, oppressive beliefs and as a result the majority of the population is trying obsessively to achieve a body that is accessible and healthy for only a teeny tiny % of the current population.
We've been taught to diet. And over exercise. We've been encouraged by the medical community and nutritional experts to engage in all kinds of crazy behaviours...low fat, no fat, all fat....amphetamine diet pills anyone??
But none of those things have ever or will ever make us thinner (no study has ever proven long term weight loss from a diet or pill except for a very tiny % of people) and NONE of it is making us healthier.
Stop hating your body.
Start taking care of yourself and see where your body (and weight) naturally go.
Simple. But simple isn't often easy. Is it??
Based on the work I've done over the past ten years I feel pretty passionately about changing the way we (women in particular) look at our bodies and treat ourselves. If you want to learn more, sign up below for my email list or check in here regularly. I'm going to start a weekly(ish) blog series on weight, body image, and changing the way we treat our physical selves.
1. Mokdad, Ali H., et al., "Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000" Journal of The American Medical Association 291 (2004): 1238-45
2. Flegal, Katherine M., et al., "Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity," Journal of The American Medical Association 293, no. 15 (2005): 1861-67
3. Wildman, R. P., P. Muntner, K. Reynolds, et al. The obese without cardiometabolic risk factor clustering and the normal weight with cardiometabolic risk factor clustering: prevalence and correlates of 2 phentypes among the US population (NHANES 1999-2004). Arch. Intern. Med. Aug 11 2008; 168(15): 1617-1624
4. Iacobellis, G., M. C. Ribaudo, A. ZAppaterreno, C. V. Iannucci, and F. Leonetti, Prevalence of uncomplicated obesity in an obese Italian population. Obes. Res. Jun 2005; 13(6):1116-1122
5. Bacon, Linda. Health at Every Size BenBella Books, Inc., 2008