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Originally published August 6 2004

Anti-Obesity Activists Fight For Fat Acceptance; Here's Where They're Right and Wrong On Issues of Obesity

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

There's a war brewing over obesity. On one side you have the leaders and promoters of western medicine, who are saying that obesity is now a disease, and who are promoting all sorts of surgical procedures such as gastric bypass surgery -- as well as a wide variety of prescription drugs -- in order to combat obesity. The government says obesity is a critical public health problem, costing $100 billion a year as well as 300,000 lives each year. On the other side of this war, we have a growing group of people who are fighting against the idea that obesity is a disease, or that obesity has any health risks whatsoever. There's an association known as the NAAFA -- the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance -- which is now gaining momentum and arguing that we are living in an atmosphere of hysteria about obesity. They're saying that obesity is not unhealthy and that there is a sort of witch hunt or form of insanity taking place in blaming obesity for everything under the sun.

Let's get to the bottom of all this. I do agree with the group on one thing: that the designation of obesity as a disease is as much a marketing gimmick for the promotion of gastric bypass surgery and prescription drugs as it is any move designed to actually help people lose weight. I agree that gastric bypass surgery is something like a stomach amputation, and that it may be viewed one day as something as insane as lobotomies. I can't imagine anyone wanting to rip out part of their digestive system in order to attempt to attain a healthy body weight. On the other hand, there's a big problem with the idea that obesity has no health risks associated with it.

The fact that we are saying obesity is a health risk, or obesity is a disease, doesn't mean that the establishment is out to attack or discriminate against obese people. In some sense, this designation finally allows people who are obese to get the medical help they may need, and hopefully more of that help will go in the direction of prevention and nutritional counseling rather than surgical procedures and prescription drugs. If it does, the designation of obesity as a disease could turn out to be tremendous help to the population at large.

But this group, the NAAFA, argues that there's nothing wrong with being obese in terms of health. They say some people can be overweight for their entire lives and not end up with diabetes or heart disease. Well, that may be true, but that's certainly the exception and not the rule, and people who are overweight only end up free of diabetes if they are simultaneously extremely active, which most Americans are not. If you're overweight and follow a sedentary lifestyle, your chances of becoming diabetic are extremely high.

But now, getting back to what I agree with, the organization says that "obesity is not a disease," and I agree with that. In fact, I think many things that are labeled diseases by organized medicine are not diseases at all, but rather metabolic disorders. Obesity is certainly one of them -- so is cancer, so is osteoporosis, so is clinical depression. To me, a true "disease" is something that invades the body from the outside, such as malaria or smallpox. But these other so-called chronic diseases are really just natural effects from the nutrition and level of physical exercise being pursued by the patient.

In other words, if you want to give someone a case of osteoporosis, you don't have to expose them to pathogens -- all you have to do is make sure they drink soft drinks, consume highly acidic foods, get absolutely no natural sunlight, don't take any vitamin D supplements, and get no exercise. Within a matter of years, their bone mass with decrease until they reach a point where they might be officially diagnosed as having osteoporosis. So, I agree that obesity is not a disease, but again, neither is cancer nor diabetes, nor osteoporosis, and a long list of other so-called diseases.

Obesity is a metabolic result. It is the result of poor food choice combined with a lack of physical exercise. Note that I didn't say it is a result of "eating too much," because that's an oversimplified explanation. A thin person, like myself, can eat just as much food mass as an obese person, however it is the caloric density of those foods that differs greatly. For example, I might eat 4 or 5 huge bowls of salad in one sitting, while another person who is obese might each 4 or 5 huge bowls of ice cream in the same sitting. We each have taken up the same physical space in our stomachs, we each feel the same degree of satiation from our meal, but the difference is I may have consumed 200 calories, while the other person may have put 1500 calories into their body. In this way, obesity is not a disease of eating too much food mass -- it's the result of poor food choice and choosing foods that are high in processed carbohydrates, added sugars, and refined grains such as white flour or corn flour. Soft drinks are obviously one of the worst offenders.

I also think that this anti-obesity movement is going too far with this entire "fat acceptance stance for tolerance." In my view, they're hiding behind a lot of language that is more properly associated with the more legitimate area of racial discrimination or gender discrimination. In this country there are genuine problems with discrimination against people based on their gender and their race, and these problems are far more widespread and of a very different nature than discrimination against someone based on their body weight. Certainly, discrimination based on body weight is wrong, however, there is an element of truth to the fact that the person has the power to alter their body weight, whereas a person has no such power to alter their skin color or gender.

Thus, discrimination based on skin color or gender exists at a whole different level from that of discrimination based on body weight or body shape. Once again, that's not to say that discrimination based on obesity isn't wrong -- because I believe it is wrong -- but I also think it's inappropriate for the fat acceptance activists to borrow language from racial discrimination and use it as a shield from which they can launch their own form of tolerance activism.

My advice to anyone who is overweight or obese is the same advice that I gave myself when I found myself weighing 220 pounds with an embarrassingly large degree of body fat: do something about it. You can change your body shape by changing your food choice and your level of physical exercise. If you don't like the way society is treating you because of your body shape, you do have the power to make changes in that body shape. Once again, it doesn't make it right for other people to discriminate based on body shape, but at least this is a case where you can do something about it.


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