Why can’t society just accept fat people for who they are? They’re human beings too and should not be scorned by others just because they carry around a few extra pounds. When are we going to stop begging people to lose weight when it is quite possible to be healthy at any size?
Have you heard statements like these from some well-meaning people? The “fat acceptance” movement has taken root in this country with groups like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance promoting their viewpoint that fat is beautiful and nobody should be forced into losing weight if they don’t want to.
I’m sure many of my longtime readers remember how this woman got so mad at me over this blog post because I dared challenge the premise that being fat is okay. The notion of accepting fat people for who they are sounds pretty good on the surface, doesn’t it? If I’m fat, then it’s my choice to be this way so LEAVE ME ALONE!
Okay, fine. But as someone who used to weigh over 400 pounds, I not only have a right to speak out, but I would also say that it is my responsibility to share with others that remaining obese is not an option when there are viable ways to shed the pounds even when you think you’ve tried everything.
Unfortunately, we have people pushing “fat acceptance” like Kim Barto who believe strongly that weight loss is overrated. She is a senior at the University of North Carolina-Asheville just up the road from my hometown of Spartanburg, SC and she recently wrote this op-ed piece for The Citizen-Times about this very sensitive subject of America’s obession with weight loss which Barto describes as “urealistic” and even “harmful.”
Barto attempted to provide evidence to support her theory about American culture hung up on dieting by noting that eating disorders have risen sharply while more and more people express concerns about their weight. She contends that this is leading to higher rates of mental disorders that sometimes leads to suicide attempts and even death.
Morbid thoughts indeed. But what Barto is conveniently forgetting is the fact that TWO OUT OF EVERY THREE AMERICANS IS OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE and the rates keep going up and up! So it stands to reason that weight loss is on our minds as a country because it needs to be. We’re FAT!
In Barto’s world, though, she doesn’t see anything wrong with people remaining fat if that’s what makes them feel good.
“A wide variety of body types are normal, depending on one’s bone structure, metabolism and genetics. It is fruitless and misleading to expect everyone to conform to the same weight. Whether you are naturally muscular, chunky, twiggy, curvy or tiny, trying to change your body can be frustrating and even dangerous.”
Now wait just a minute, Ms. Barto. What is so “dangerous” about someone trying to lose weight? When I weighed an abysmal 410 pounds at the beginning of 2004, many would say I had put myself in a bad situation, even a potentially “dangerous” one. My health was on the decline with breathing, blood pressure and cholesterol problems among other ailments. I was quite literally a ticking timebomb just waiting to explode.
But then I started livin’ la vida low-carb and changed my life forever. Sure, I could have just accepted my fat for what it was and begged people to not judge me for my weight. However, it wasn’t about my image, but rather my health. It was better for me to go on the Atkins diet than to remain obese. I honestly believe I may not be here today had I not lost 180 pounds two years ago. Weight loss not only was a desire, but a necessity for me to survive.
It kills me how people like Barto like to bring up the point about how 98 percent of dieters gain back their weight and then some within five years. To that I say SO WHAT?! What the heck does that have to do with the person who needs to lose 50, 100, 200 pounds because their health is in disarray because of their obesity? If diets fail then don’t go on a diet. Instead, find a permanent lifestyle change you can do for the rest of your life.
My weight loss is still less than three years old, so I suppose it is possible I have time to regain my weight, too. Should I just throw my hands up in the air and just assume the weight will come back on my body? Is giving up hope for lasting weight loss success the answer? Heck no, it isn’t. Weight loss is a journey of choice that YOU and ONLY YOU must make for yourself if it is something you need to do. Fat acceptance is nothing more than a ruse to avoid necessary weight loss. PERIOD!
The problem is that too many people are in denial about their weight problem to begin with. In other words, people HAVE too easily accepted their size and it is now taking a toll on their health. Rising obesity rates is creating financial problems for Medicare because of the extra healthcare costs that are involved with obesity-related diseases. The unintended consequences of fat acceptance is declining health among all age groups.
Lamenting the weight loss profits totaling nearly $50 billion a year, Barto said this is all just so ridiculous and people should stop trying to lose weight while lining the pockets of those who don’t care about their health.
“What a paradox, that dieting should be such a lucrative industry in a country with such high obesity rates. Someone is obviously profiting from fat phobia in a big way. Take a nation of insecure people, bombard them with images of impossible beauty standards, and they will greet the latest fad with open wallets. Couldn’t those billions of dollars be better spent? Instead of trying to buy happiness, think of all the good that money could do if diverted to cancer research or stamping out hunger.”
Oh please, Ms. Barto. There’s no conspiracy to trick people into thinking they are fat to get them to buy weight loss products. Have you looked around lately? There are a LOT of people who are FAT! It literally breaks my heart to be in a public place like a restaurant and see someone whose belly sticks out in front of them at least two feet. My first thought is, “God, I can’t believe that’s how big I used to be.” Then I remember the hard work I put into losing my weight and wish so desperately to help these people get healthier, too.
While everyone is trying to get their piece of the proverbial pie in the diet industry, it is up to the consumer to be smart about what choices they make regarding their own health. They can’t rely on a company like Nestle to provide them quality products for a healthy diet. Misleading marketing ads exist out there and people need to educate themselves about what is best for them. This blog post was the perfect illustration of the business model for being in diet market.
Barto contends that people can be in “good health at any size.”
“Too many dieters harm their bodies and psyches by skipping meals, purging and popping pills in the quest for skinniness. We should eat for nutrition and well-being, not solely to lose weight. Amidst all the deprivation and guilt associated with eating, we often forget that fresh, simple food is a joy in itself.”
Does carrying around a big pot belly cause harm to our bodies, Ms. Barto? It most definitely does, which is why people need to lose weight. I don’t advocate starving yourself, throwing up or taking the latest magic weight loss pill to get there. But a healthy low-carb lifestyle has been proven to be the most nutrient-dense and balanced nutritional approach I have ever come across in my life. There’s no deprivation, but rather indulgence to the max on this amazing way of eating.
Concluding her article, Barto said it is time for a “change in mindset.”
“Let’s embrace diversity of size and question the source of our insecurities. Find the weight that’s healthy for you, individually, without comparing yourself to the skeletal models on TV. Life is too short to hate your body.”
I agree with the point that the warped image of what “normal” is from Hollywood is wrong. But there are ways to deal with your weight problem and get healthy that fall outside the realm of these unrealistic images. Heck, technically I’m still obese despite losing over 180 pounds! But am I worried about that? HA! Yeah right! My body is much better off now in the 220’s than it was at 410.
Wouldn’t you agree, Ms. Barto?
You can e-mail Kim Barto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9-23-06 UPDATE: Well, it looks like the fine pro-fat acceptance folks over at the “Big Fat Blog” didn’t take too kindly to this blog post.
Here’s an excerpt:
“We must be making waves if people feel this threatened, no? Articles like Ms. Barto’s demonstrate that more people are considering just loving their bodies as they are, and getting off the hamster wheel that is the diet industry. And somehow, HAES and fat acceptance are bigger scams than, say, low-carb dieting? Calorie counting? Grapefruit diet? WeightWatchers? Jenny Craig? Slim-Fast? South Beach? NutriSystem? It’s sad, really, and it’s equally sad that this article came from a supposed news source.”
Ahhhhh, you gotta love these people. They feel oh so happy with being overweight that they can’t handle it when someone tells it to them straight. I make no apologies for what I wrote because it is my sincere belief that people who over carrying around extra weight need to make a lot more changes in their life besides their diet. But, to each his own.
9-27-06 UPDATE: Well, now I’ve heard straight from the horse’s mouth. Kim Barto was kind enough to respond to my concerns about her article today in an e-mail:
Hi Jimmy, thank you for taking the time to write in response to my column. I’m glad that Atkins has given you the motivation to get in shape and change your life for the better. But I must take issue with your assertion that my column deals with “fat acceptance.” Obviously, obesity causes health problems–no one disagrees with that. The main point of my article was health, i.e. making the lifestyle choice to get active, eat a balanced diet and find the weight that maximizes your physical and mental well-being. I’m not advocating the total abolition of weight loss here. What is the problem is a nation of young women (and some men) who are taught to believe there is something wrong with their bodies, when in fact they are within the normal parameters of a healthy weight. Believe me, as a college student, this is something I encounter every day. You would not believe how many of my friends and acquaintances obsess about their weight, even if they are naturally a size 6 or 8, skip meals or suffer from eating disorders.
One of my professors took a survey in class one day; he asked all the females to write on a slip of paper whether they considered themselves “fat.” Nine out of ten said yes, and this was a class full of active, athletic women. He has done this exercise for several years with the same result. It is truly scary how much these impossible standards of beauty skew people’s perceptions. But perhaps you are not aware of the extent to which advertising and runway models affect self-image, since you are not a young female. I was not kidding when I said that these societal messages are warping the minds of girls from elementary school onward. If you don’t believe this, I suggest you look up some statistics on pediatric eating disorders. It’s a horrifying phenomenon when seven-year-olds make themselves throw up.
I’m flattered that you thought enough of my writing to post it in your blog; however, I think you may have missed my point. From what I’ve read of your post, we’re talking apples and oranges. But thank you again for writing. I do appreciate hearing what my readers have to say.
THANK YOU, Kim, for clarifying your comments. I appreciate that you took the time to explain what your motive for writing the column was and for sharing your thoughts on this very important social subject. Take care!