Did you know that there exists a war of words between a growing fat acceptance movement and folks who advocate weight loss as a means to decrease the likelihood of diseases like diabetes and cancer? The folks in the fat (or body size) acceptance movement label their adversaries fatophobes while the weight loss advocates have a name for the fat acceptance folks- fatophiles. Both sides make interesting points. In the end both sides have their problems. The fatophiles come off as bent on rationalizing unhealthy body sizes by whatever means possible, while the fatophobes appear unrealistic and intolerant of variations in body size. However one thing is clear, both messages taken to their extreme pose a danger, but the former appears to be much more dangerous than the latter. Listen to the fatophobes too much and perhaps anorexia becomes a bigger problem as people become more irrational about their weight, listen to the fatophiles and their excuses for obesity and what is now labeled “an obesity epidemic” only grows worse.
The fatophiles do have some things going for them and they are worth mentioning here. First, variation in body size is often a good thing. We definitely shouldn’t try to pigeon-hole everyone into looking like a magazine cover model. However, as often happens with acceptance movements, the fatophiles are so accepting that they refuse to recognize that there is such a thing as an unhealthy body type. Second, weight loss for the sake of weight loss often leads to self-destructive behavior (not to mention crackpot weight loss methods). How many people do you know who tried to lose weight by practically starving themselves? By following some ridiculous fad diet like eating nothing by grapefruits? And that leads to perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the fatophiles- thinness alone isn’t enough. All too often people want to simply “lose weight” and get thin, instead of seeking to live healthier and get fit. I’ll let the fatophiles and fatophobes argue over it is better to be thin or fat AND unfit. As for me and my house, we will focus on fitness.
This leads to my major problem with the fatophile movement- they don’t speak about living a healthy lifestyle. They are the body image equivalent of the 70s free love hippies. Hippies preached a message of free love that ignored the problem of S.T.D.’s. Similarly, the fatophiles proclaim an intoxicating message of acceptance while they not only ignore but even condemn those who would dare point out the unhealthy consequences of certain body shapes and sizes. Their imperative is on some subjective idea of loving your body no matter its size while they remain willfully oblivious to the actual damage they might be doing to their own body by living an unhealthy lifestyle.
So where is the middle ground? Well don’t be shocked by what I say next, it really is this simple. Eat healthy, exercise regularly (resistance training and cardio), and be active. Given those three inputs your body will find an equilibrium that is just right for you. Some of us won’t have 6-pack abs, and that is okay. Some of us will be barrel chested, that is fine. And yes there are some people who due to medicine and medical conditions can’t lose weight. Only you know if you are one of those folks- but good news for you the reader, most people are not. [I can speak from experience since I took phenobarbital for three years. Its side effects include lethargy and a drop in the metabolism which often leads to weight gain. And trust me, I dealt with those side effects].
If you want some background on this debate, check out some of the links below….
Representing the Fat-o-philes
Fat and Happy, John Tierny
A Word of Caution: When you come across passages like the following, think for a minute,
“The fatophobes are fighting on, disputing the new study and arguing that it still shows the fatal dangers of being seriously obese. But they have lost the scientific high ground. Not only do people of “normal” weight die younger than the moderately overweight, the study shows, but thin people die even younger than those of normal weight.”
See anything wrong with this? When are these weights registered? Around the time of death? One has to wonder if the study (and many I’ve actually read don’t) took into consideration people dying of wasting diseases or who wasted because they were dying? My grandfather was a overweight for the last few decades of his life and struggled with diabetes, but after his stroke he lost a considerable amount of weight and would no doubt be labeled “thin” for the last 4 or so months of his life. So keep such in mind as you hear statistics like the one above.
Representing the Fat-o-phobes
To Lengthen Thy Life Ignore the Fatophiles, Michael Fumento
There is much more to read out there in Google land. If you have the spare time, this should help you get a head start.