Obesity: Debunking the Blame Game

Obesity: Debunking the Blame Game

Blaming and shaming people for their weight is unproductive, and can lead to unhealthy behaviors like binging and purging, self-starvation, and fad diets that usually end with weight being put back on. Depression, self-hatred, low self-esteem, and poor self-confidence and self-image often stem from outward influences, of which being blamed and shamed for one’s body type and weight are common. Your weight is only one facet of your overall health, and changes in weight should always be aligned with an optimized health plan that takes your entire unique physiology into account.

The prevailing trend of obesity in the US is primarily attributed to any or all of the following:

What’s wrong with this picture? It paints a portrait of a person who does bad things to themselves, who asks for it, who is to blame for their condition and who should be shamed for it. This is an unhealthy attitude!

The Blame and Shame Game

Sugary drinks and fast food are things foods that millions of Americans eat frequently without becoming obese, and which many obese people do not eat at all.

While the types of food you eat do impact your overall health and your weight, they aren’t the sole factor in weight gain and anyone who assumes you are fat because you must have a McD’s frequent flier card is just making themselves feel good by shaming you.

In fact, shame and blame is the commonality among most attitudes about weight.

Gluttony is a decidedly sanctimonious term. Fat? You therefore MUST eat too much! Shame! It’s not always as simple as A, therefore B, however – there are many additional factors to consider. Many people diet and exercise but can’t seem to lose the weight, and many patients can’t exercise due to physical impairment.

People seem to think they know it all. You say you eat healthy? Do you count calories? No? Well, of course you are fat! Shame! How many calories you take in vs how many you burn is a simplistic way of looking at weight gain, maintenance, and loss. The type of food eaten can affect what order it is converted by the body into sugar to be burned off, and the type of exercise chosen can affect whether fat loss is targeted or increased muscle mass.

Problematic Measurement Tools

Another problem with “obesity” labels is that the way weight is evaluated is by the inaccurate BMI standard, which is constantly changing and becoming more restricted. BMI ignores most differences between men and women, completely bypasses body structure (such as a short waist and long arms and legs vs a long waist and short arms and legs), doesn’t register the fact that young people grow at different rates, and utterly misses the fact that people who are “super fit” often fall into overweight or obese ranges!

The BMI can be helpful as a starting point, but should NEVER be used as a final diagnostic tool, especially for women. Photographer and avid cyclist Catherine Lothian did a specific project aimed at athletic women with a BMI over 25 showing how the tool is unhelpful and inaccurate, and researchers from the University of California recently released meticulous study that claims to be “the nail in the coffin of BMI”.

Other Diagnoses

Diabetes – specifically any type that isn’t Type 1 – is another area in which the blame and shame game is played. Unless you were diagnosed as a child with Type 1, it’s universally assumed that you did it to yourself – usually by becoming fat via one of the assumed routes mentioned above – glutton, sloth, and indulgence in foods that are “bad for you.”

However, Type 2 and the many types in between - including Type 1.5, gestational, and MODY – often have a genetic factor – and being fat doesn’t give you diabetes.

Blaming and shaming people for their weight is unproductive, and can lead to unhealthy behaviors like binging and purging, self-starvation, and fad diets that usually end with weight being put back on. Depression, self-hatred, low self-esteem, and poor self-confidence and self-image often stem from outward influences, of which being blamed and shamed for one’s body type and weight are common.

Your weight is only one facet of your overall health, and changes in weight should always be aligned with an optimized health plan that takes your entire unique physiology into account.

Author Jordan Wagner

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