Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Let’s Not Minimize the Seriousness of Obesity

Obesity is a major U.S. and world problem. Obesity raises the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, some forms of cancer, and other illnesses. However, two often-held beliefs may undercut the drive to reduce obesity in the world. One of these beliefs is that body positivity should be embraced in the extreme and the other belief is that there are “metabolically healthy individuals.”

Body positivity “is a feminist movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirmative attitudes toward their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.”
Body positivity empowers “women of non-Barbie proportions to feel good about themselves.…” And a lot of good has come out of the body positivity movement. Unhealthy diets are getting more scrutiny, for example.

However, some proponents of the movement are taking the body positivity idea to the extreme. For example, some proponents argue that it is okay to be fat. “The comedian, Sophie Hagan, recently accused Cancer Research of bullying fat people, after the charity launched a campaign to raise awareness about the link between cancer and obesity.” There is a link between cancer and obesity and a number of other diseases. And it is appropriate for healthcare professionals to alert the public.

Concerning the metabolically healthy obese individuals (MHOs), the belief that there are healthy obese persons does hold some water. In fact, an individual may be metabolically healthy for a while. The individual may be free of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other obesity related diseases. But obese persons, not exhibiting any of these diseases, are still more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases than normal-weight individuals later in life.

The belief that body positivity can be a healthy endeavor is correct, but only when not taken to the extreme. Obesity, in general, is not healthy for the long term. This is similar to MHOs. MHOs can be healthy for a while, but probably not later in life because of the obesity. And healthcare professionals should make these points clear to their patients.

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