I think there’s a difference between fat shaming and realizing that America’s health issues are out of control.
Well, in theory there is a difference between those two things. But in practice, there typically is not.
Usually, the thread will run like this: America’s health issues are awful, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, you-name-it. Oh, what could be to blame for all this devastation? Fatness, obviously! Shame, shame, shame on all you weak-willed slothful lazy gluttonous piggies who are wasting your lives and all of our precious healthcare dollars! SHAME ON YOU. And suddenly, America’s health crisis is turned into a fatness crisis.
But that connection… it’s weak and not really supported by science. Because lots of people who are thin have heart disease, lots of people who are physically unremarkable have diabetes, and of course I need hardly mention that lots of people who are not at all fat have cancer. Ditto for Alzheimer’s.
It’s nice and easy to try to pin it all on fatties. For one thing, they’re really easy to spot! All those regular people who are not fat, yet somehow are getting cancer and hoovering up healthcare services — they are harder to pick out in a group photo. And then, too, it’s quite accepted in society today to just hate fatness and to regard it as completely bad. (Another notion that science does not support. Actually, statistically, people who are a little chunky but otherwise in good health tend to live longer.)
So I am not arguing that there’s no health crisis. Clearly, there is one. But getting fat people to lose weight will not necessarily solve our health crisis. Because it really has not been established that fatness is causing the crisis in the first place.
And actually, even mentioning the word “fat” in the same sentence as “America’s health issues” is sort of problematic, isn’t it? It implies that there is a relationship there. But since science has not truly established any causal relationship, it’s a bit like saying, “I think there’s a difference between fag shaming and realizing that America’s rodent population issues are out of control.” The two things are not related, the second issue is legit, and the first issue is just plain old bigotry. (Also my sincere apologies to any gay people out there for using such an offensive term, even in an example.)
America does have a lot of health issues! And only a very comprehensive, multi-pronged approach can ever even come close to addressing all those issues. It’s a bit of a naive fantasy to imagine that these issues will all be wrapped up tidily if only those awful fatties would just get off their lazy scooter-driving asses. A true solution will have to deeply change every aspect of our lives, from the way that food is grown and marketed, to the way that we consume food socially, the way that healthcare is paid for and the way we access it, and whether we can access preventative rather than palliative care, along with thorny issues like societal imbalances, access to food, cultural attitudes about body types. Not to mention the underlying issue of the extremely bad science clogging up the scene in the area of nutrition. It’s a huge, multi-part problem, and no single thing is going to solve it.