I am currently in a TV Production Studio class at my college, and yesterday we took a field trip to the local CBS affiliate to see their studio and how they run their 5:00 news. It was really really exciting for me. I just thought it was so cool–seeing how everything works, watching the reality of the show as it’s happening, and hearing the newscasters make snarky comments while a segment was rolling in. Very neat.
Unfortunately, one of the stories was a health story alleging that obesity is as likely to kill you as smoking. I don’t know what study they were citing, but apparently new research has concluded that you’re equally likely to die early if you’re fat as you are if you’re a smoker.
It was at this moment that it became perfectly clear to me what my major problem is with the “obesity epidemic.” What the news, society, doctors, medicine at large, etc. fail to acknowledge is that it’s not obesity that’s killing people; it’s the problems they associate with obesity. Under the title of obesity fall high blood pressure, immobility, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. etc. Obesity itself doesn’t kill people; all these other problems kill people. And whereas the scientific community would like to say that obesity=these problems, I think most of us in the fat-o-sphere are living proof that that is not true.
I also think that the large number of individuals who are thin and have these same issues are proving them wrong as well. My normal-weight (by BMI standards) friend has high cholesterol. Another of my friends (who is normal weight by BMI standards) has high blood pressure. The list goes on. How does the medical community reconcile that? They are just health issues. They aren’t caused by anything more than genetics, maybe an unhealthy diet. When they show up in fat people, it’s considered a result of their obesity.
I just will never understand it. It’s like obesity is a virus, like the flu, that’s going to kill you slowly. Or that your fat is just going to strangle you one day while you sleep. WTF is that? I’m never going to understand it.
On the other hand, I do have high cholesterol. I’m trying to get it under control with diet and exercise and medication. But it’s in my family history. My dad has high cholesterol, my mom has high cholesterol. Two of my grandparents (one from each side) have had bypass surgeries due to blocked arteries. It’s flippin’ genetic. But still, when I walk into a doctors office, the first thing I’m told is that I need to get my weight under control. Like weight will solve all of my issues.
It wasn’t until recently that I really figured out how to approach this whole deal (with HAES as my guidance): we, in our society, and me personally, need to shift our focus from WEIGHT to HEALTH. It’s one simple thing. We need to switch from treatments for OBESITY to treatments for particular HEALTH ISSUES. Although I’m sure losing weight will help my cholesterol, losing weight isn’t enough, nor is it likely to happen quickly. I can start right now to change my cholesterol by eating right, working out, etc. But if I were to focus on my weight, as the treatment for my disease is asking me to do, I doubt I would get healthier. In fact, I’d just have an unhealthy view of the world.
This all just really clicked in my head today, though I’ve been thinking of it (not in these terms) for a while. It’s all in how we think about things. Sadly, I think that in the case of most of our society’s health issues, it needs to start with mind over matter: get it right, then make it right.