Friday, September 30, 2016

Weight of the Notion

On May 7th, while still basking in the afterglow of International No Diet Day, The New York Times published a series of opinion pieces called Women, Weight, and Wellness that stirred up a great deal of discussion, debate, and commentary on the topic of…well…women, weight, and wellness!  (Imagine that?!)  Seeing size acceptance and HAES points of view so prominently represented was uplifting to say the least and my emotional stock was up!

Reading the comment section, however, made it clear that there is little debate over the existence of a powerful disdain towards fat people in this country.

Stock down.

The following night, PBS aired a segment on NEWSHOUR where Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez looked at how the increasing number of obese people in America is resulting in skyrocketing costs of everything from healthcare to transportation.  The message couldn’t have been clearer, fat people are stealing our money and they need to stop being fat.

Stock way way down.

But then Dr. Pattie Thomas a renown Psychologist, HAES advocate, and writer for Psychology Today wrote this enlightening piece on the Risks of Obesity:  Financial Cost/Benefit Analysis and once again my portfolio was brighter!

Next came North Carolina’s decision re: disallowing same gender marriage and I was thrust into my own personal Great Depression. Honestly, civil rights are theoretically supposed to protect all of us, all shapes and sizes, all genders and religions. How could there be such overwhelming support for a law that blatantly discriminates against a segment of the American public?  But then…just like that…my radio became the bearer of beautiful news!  President Obama publicly announced his agreement with Joe Biden’s statement earlier in the week and came out  in favor of same gender marriage.  It was an affirmation of one of the basic principles that America was founded on and despite a potential political risk, Obama firmly made his position clear as clear could be.

Stocks up!

But lest I get too complacent, there is an anti-obesity campaign about to be launched by HBO on May 14th and 15th that consists of four full length films, 12 short films, a website and a book.  It was produced in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s title, Weight of the Nation, accurately describes the feeling I had in my heart as I read a description of what the American people are about to have foisted on them.

“…one of the most far-reaching public health campaigns to date on obesity.”

The fear mongering in their P.R. is tangible with warnings that we all need to learn more about the,

“…impact that obesity is having on the health, well-being, and future of our nation,”

and I could feel that part of me starting to sink under the weight of the notion that obesity is a disease that is going to bring this nation down more quickly and more decisively than anything in any foreign power’s arsenal.

Luckily, the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) were on it…quickly and vehemently with the following  response:

“ASDAH is concerned that instead, we may be seeing one of the most misleading and misguided public health campaigns – ever.”

And they didn’t stop there.  ASDAH has launched a section on their website specifically devoted to the Weight Debate:  Their hope is that,

“You will take a moment to review our response via the links provided and think through some of the claims the documentary is making.  Please don’t take our word for it.  We only ask that you examine the science that shows that weight loss approaches are not only ineffective but harmful.  Examine your conscience, and ask yourself whether continuing the anti-obesity rhetoric embodied in this documentary is the best way to promote health.  We invite you to familiarize yourself with the resources on our website to learn more about the Health At Every Size® approach that offers a compassionate and sustainable approach to health promotion.”

But weight…there’s more!  In the blog section of ASDAH’s website, which I am proud to say I moderate, Dr. Deb Burgard provides a “viewer’s guide ” to help you maintain sanity points and Fall Ferguson, JD, M.A.,  presents reasons to be concerned about the approach that WOTN is using to reach its audience and the message they are delivering.

I know there are those who are questioning why this is so important to me and who may be feeling that I am nonchalant about issues related to health.  I have been told that my pro Health at Every Size® stance is just an excuse for staying overweight because I am too lazy to do anything about it.

“If you were thin, you wouldn’t feel this way!”

Even if those accusations were true, my response to the way obesity and those labeled obese is being demonized in our society would not waver. This is an equal rights issue.  This is a pro-choice issue.  This is about civil rights.  In an article written by Paul Campos last year he discussed how sometimes even the most politically liberal people still can not get past their prejudice towards fat people.  If your position about obesity is based on concern for our health or presumed financial burden on society, I just ask you to read more than the one side of the story that you are being told over and over and over.  Then, just as you would for an election, make your decision based on being informed.

For those of us who face discrimination, bullying, rudeness and marginalization based on our bodies we need to brace ourselves for what may be a windstorm of hatred and disdain coming our way.  I am hoping that we can be strong and engage in the debate. In order to do that, we need to educate ourselves with accurate facts.

Please read the articles on the ASDAH website and find other sources of information.  I have some listed on my website.  These resources will help you navigate through what is certain to be a test of our HAES resolve and our ability to deflect the onslaught of what may be a new wave of contempt towards people based on  body size alone.  And who knows, we may change some minds in the process.

Stocks up!

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