The Skinny on Fat

There are two commonly held assumptions about fat. One is that it is unhealthy to be heavy. The other is that if they tried, heavy people could lose weight. These assumptions help to reinforce stereotypes of heavy people as being lazy, undisciplined, unhealthy and gluttonous.

In general, weight loss methods prove to be ineffective for most people, and may in fact pose serious health risks making the cure for obesity worse than the condition itself. 

The Truth About Fat and Health

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reports that “the data linking fat with death and the data showing losing weight to be healthy are limited, fragmentary, and often ambiguous” (Kristen 2000: 67).        
  • Chronic dieting causes weight gain and may eventually make weight loss a physical impossibility.
  • Studies have found an association between weight loss and weight fluctuations and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Significant health problems and fatalities sometimes result from weight loss surgeries.
  • Many obesity “cures” have been found to cause harm.
  • Studies have found that when heavy people were fit, their death rates were nearly the same as people who were considered lean and fit.
  • Risks of diabetes and heart disease were reduced for heavy people who engaged in regular exercise and practiced sound eating EVEN IF THEY DID NOT LOSE WEIGHT.
  • Studies have identified over 100 genes that contribute to the etiology of obesity (Kristen 2000: 69).

Another inaccurate assumption that is commonly made about heavy people is that they must have poor dietary habits and do not engage in physical activity. People who are thin are not automatically healthy because they are thin. Nor is their thinness an automatic indication of good nutrition and adequate exercise. Moreover, with good nutrition and exercise one may be heavy and still be fit and enjoy good health. A growing number of scientists agree that weight is not the determining factor for poor health, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are. This is true whether an individual is heavy or thin. Nevertheless, health insurance is denied to many large people because of their size. If health coverage is granted, they are often forced to pay higher premiums compared to those of average weight.

Weight Prejudice and Medical Practice

Many heavy patients report distressing experiences with health care providers. ( Physicians and health care providers frequently focus solely on an individual’s body size rather than their actual health problem.

  • Heavy patients are commonly advised to lose weight regardless of their state of health. And while a thin person is given medication or other appropriate treatments, a heavy person with the same symptoms may simply be told to lose weight.
  • Even though the U.S. Department of Health and the World Health Organization agree that dieting and weight lose surgery can be dangerous to human health, patients healthfulness continues to be determined by their body mass index regardless of the lack of scientific evidence supporting its use.
  • Current medical technology has only a 10% success rate in treating obesity.