Dr. Deah's Tasty Morsels

Weight of the Notion

Posted on May 10, 2012 by Dr. Deah

On May 7th, while still basking in the afterglow of International No Diet Day, The New York Times published a series of opinion pieces called Women, Weight, and Wellness that stirred up a great deal of discussion, debate, and commentary on the topic of...well...women, weight, and wellness!  (Imagine that?!)  Seeing size acceptance and HAES points of view so prominently represented was uplifting to say the least and my emotional stock was up! Reading the comment section, however, made it clear that there is little debate over the existence of a powerful disdain towards fat people in this country. Stock down. The following night, PBS aired a segment on NEWSHOUR where Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez looked at how the increasing number of obese people in America is resulting in skyrocketing costs of everything from healthcare to transportation.  The message couldn't have been clearer, fat people are stealing our money and they need to stop being fat. Stock way way down. But then Dr. Pattie Thomas a renown Psychologist, HAES advocate, and writer for Psychology Today wrote this enlightening piece on the Risks of Obesity:  Financial Cost/Benefit Analysis and once again my portfolio was brighter! Next came North Carolina's decision re: disallowing same gender marriage and I was thrust into my own personal Great Depression. Honestly, civil rights are theoretically supposed to protect all of us, all shapes and sizes, all genders and religions. How could there be such overwhelming support for a law that blatantly discriminates against a segment of the American public?  But then...just like that...my radio became the bearer of beautiful news!  President Obama publicly announced his agreement with Joe Biden's statement earlier in the week and came out  in favor of same gender marriage.  It was an affirmation of one of the basic principles that America was founded on and despite a potential political risk, Obama firmly made his position clear as clear could be. Stocks up! But lest I get too complacent, there is an anti-obesity campaign about to be launched by HBO on May 14th and 15th that consists of four full length films, 12 short films, a website and a book.  It was produced in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It's title, Weight of the Nation, accurately describes the feeling I had in my heart as I read a description of what the American people are about to have foisted on them.
“...one of the most far-reaching public health campaigns to date on obesity.”
The fear mongering in their P.R. is tangible with warnings that we all need to learn more about the,
"...impact that obesity is having on the health, well-being, and future of our nation,"
and I could feel that part of me starting to sink under the weight of the notion that obesity is a disease that is going to bring this nation down more quickly and more decisively than anything in any foreign power's arsenal. Luckily, the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) were on it...quickly and vehemently with the following  response:
"ASDAH is concerned that instead, we may be seeing one of the most misleading and misguided public health campaigns – ever."
And they didn't stop there.  ASDAH has launched a section on their website specifically devoted to the Weight Debate:  Their hope is that,
"You will take a moment to review our response via the links provided and think through some of the claims the documentary is making.  Please don’t take our word for it.  We only ask that you examine the science that shows that weight loss approaches are not only ineffective but harmful.  Examine your conscience, and ask yourself whether continuing the anti-obesity rhetoric embodied in this documentary is the best way to promote health.  We invite you to familiarize yourself with the resources on our website to learn more about the Health At Every Size® approach that offers a compassionate and sustainable approach to health promotion."
But weight...there's more!  In the blog section of ASDAH's website, which I am proud to say I moderate, Dr. Deb Burgard provides a "viewer's guide " to help you maintain sanity points and Fall Ferguson, JD, M.A.,  presents reasons to be concerned about the approach that WOTN is using to reach its audience and the message they are delivering. I know there are those who are questioning why this is so important to me and who may be feeling that I am nonchalant about issues related to health.  I have been told that my pro Health at Every Size® stance is just an excuse for staying overweight because I am too lazy to do anything about it.
"If you were thin, you wouldn't feel this way!"
Even if those accusations were true, my response to the way obesity and those labeled obese is being demonized in our society would not waver. This is an equal rights issue.  This is a pro-choice issue.  This is about civil rights.  In an article written by Paul Campos last year he discussed how sometimes even the most politically liberal people still can not get past their prejudice towards fat people.  If your position about obesity is based on concern for our health or presumed financial burden on society, I just ask you to read more than the one side of the story that you are being told over and over and over.  Then, just as you would for an election, make your decision based on being informed. For those of us who face discrimination, bullying, rudeness and marginalization based on our bodies we need to brace ourselves for what may be a windstorm of hatred and disdain coming our way.  I am hoping that we can be strong and engage in the debate. In order to do that, we need to educate ourselves with accurate facts. Please read the articles on the ASDAH website and find other sources of information.  I have some listed on my website.  These resources will help you navigate through what is certain to be a test of our HAES resolve and our ability to deflect the onslaught of what may be a new wave of contempt towards people based on  body size alone.  And who knows, we may change some minds in the process. Stocks up! Til Next Time, Dr. Deah

About Dr. Deah

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders, and Body Image. Deah is the author of Dr. Deah's Calmanac: Your Interactive Monthly Guide for Cultivating a Positive Body Image and co-author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Dr. Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even more challenging...family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at www.drdeah.com

Categories: Body Acceptance, Dr. Deah, HAES®, Obesity, Weight of the Nation | Tags: , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. I believe you’re mixing two separate concepts – being obese is unhealthy and attacking people who are obese is a moral issue. The U.S. is based on freedom to be who you want to be. But there is substantial research to show the myriad of health problems associated with excess weight. You cah’t sweep that under the carpet so you can address the issue of the notion that there is disdain for those who are obese. Those health problems are costing Americans millions of dollars – all Americans not just the people who are obese (if they even have healthcare coverage to address it). Why should I have to pay higher healthcare premiums as a healthy-weight person to cover the people who have weight-related health issues?

    It is a sad fact and well-studied that tall good-looking people will get jobs preferentially over those who aren’t attractive and who are overweight. If you want to attack that issue and try to open people’s minds to accepting who the people are and their capabilities behind their facade, I whole-heartedly agree. But Weight of the Nation wasn’t trying to attack obese people as inadequate people, just people who are risking their lives with their weight issues.

    In my business as a registered dietitian specializing in weight-loss at http://www.advantagediets.com, I use personality typing as the basis for helping people lose weight according to who they are and what is comfortable for them.

    Keep the arguments separate. Obesity is a health issue for all Americans. Size perception is something that must be dealt with on its own terms but that doesn’t change the need for people to lose weight.

    • Please forgive me for taking so long to respond, your comment touched on many issues and I wanted to answer you as concisely as possible. (Which for me is always a challenge!) 🙂 I understand that the concepts are separate but unfortunately they are so intertwined that separating them is near to impossible. How we are treated and how we feel about ourselves effects how we take care of ourselves. We tend not to take care of things or people we don’t love or like. If we don’t love ourselves or feel unloved, we have less motivation to take care of ourselves. People can not be shamed into healthy behaviors despite the frame of “we are doing this to help you.”

      The fact that you are using personality typing (I’m assuming it is the Meyers Briggs or perhaps the Enneagram) as part of your practice is intriguing. You clearly have a systemic outlook on what makes people tick, and want to craft an individualized treatment plan. But your focus on weight loss seems antithetical to your goals of helping people with their health. There are registered dieticians that use a Health at Every Size(r) approach, which is a weight neutral approach to nutrition and exercise. Some people may lose weight others not, but the fact that their clients are adopting healthy behaviors coupled with positive body image in the body they have now is really a healthier outcome not measured on any scale. Regarding weight loss as a goal, there is a large body (no pun intended) of evidence that shows that only five percent of people can maintain weight loss more than 2-5 years after they have reached their weight loss goal. Usually weight loss programs are really weight cycling programs and can be harmful.

      Even if as you said, “Weight of the Nation wasn’t trying to attack obese people as inadequate people, just people who are risking their lives with their weight issues.” What happens when people are unsuccessful at losing the weight despite numerous attempts? Do we just discard them? Do they deserve to become marginalized in our society or bullied because they have an incurable health problem? OOOH, that is a slippery slope I would not want to step foot on.

      Thin people have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart attacks and they are treated with respect and given medical interventions that do not include weight loss. I am just proposing that people resist the temptation to demonize fat people and assume that there is just one picture of health.

      Your argument about the health care premiums is one that saddens me. First of all there are no data proving that obesity is directly related to higher healthcare costs (if you’d like, you can go to the ASDAH website https://sizediversityandhealth.org/Index.asp to read more about that) but even if it were the case…we are a community. And in a community, or a civilized society people help other people. I have no problem paying school taxes so kids can learn even though I have no kids in the schools at this time. I would hope that someone would have compassion for me if I needed a helping hand from someone more fortunate.
      Thank you so much for opening up such an important discussion!

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