Friday, May 8, 2015

Health At Various Sizes.

Tell 'em, Caitlyn!
Oh lawd.

I got tagged on another "fitness" type page where there's all sorts of controversy going on over fat shamming and bullying. I got tagged as a better example of a trainer with a positive message, which was nice!

Here's the thing.

Body weight and even body composition isn't much of an indicator of health. Now OBVIOUSLY there's a limit where we know that excessive energy intake contributes to various problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and so on. And that coincides with weight gain for the same reason.

In some circles it is considered politically incorrect or unkind to acknowledge this, but the truth is the truth whether we like it or not.

But here's the thing.

We're talking about extremes here.

We're not talking about just "anyone who's not in ripped athletic shape" here. People can be "over weight" and still perfectly healthy. I'll be happy to have this confirmed by an MD/GP but I believe the same can be said for "obese". If I remember correctly the weight at which we expect to see a reduction in life expectancy is quite significantly above the cut off between overweight and obese.

Of course "reduction in life expectancy" and "general good health" are different topics and you could reasonably argue that the point at which health is compromised occurs well before the point that life expectancy is effected, and that this is still cause for concern.

But I digress.

The thing is that an overweight person is not necessarily unhealthy, and a "normal weight" person is not necessarily healthy. And most certainly the idea that anyone other than someone in athletic shape with an especially lean or "ideal" body composition is unhealthy is just ridiculous. Especially when so many unhealthy approaches are suggested as being necessary to achieve such a condition.

What I have come to understand over the past few years writing blogs and participating in discussions is that these are complex matters that need to to be handled with compassion and eloquence.

It might be true that a person's weight is excessive to a point that their health is compromised. Commenting on it in a judgmental manner that implies that they owe it to you to care more about their health is far from helpful or constructive. In most cases it comes across more as a form of concern trolling, where the real message is simply "I don't like fat people", but disingenuously mitigated with the "but it's not healthy" message.

It's complicated. Another individual's health is none of your business. However we do live in a society and what we all do as individuals does effect our society.

So if you have a concern that as a society, we're tending to be less active, less healthy, more likely to over indulge in excessive amounts of unhealthy foods, and so on... if you're concerned about where this is heading... fair enough. But singling out individuals for ridicule is not the answer. Shaming people for taking up too much space and telling them what they should care more about (aka their health, having a body type that you find less objectionable, whatever) is just offensive.

If you want to fix the problem, fix the fitness and weight loss industries that contribute to the problem via ineffectual, unhealthy approaches and guilt and shame based marketing.

Indignantly making people feel like they're not good enough and you're offended by their existence is hardly the way someone with positive intentions and concern for others would conduct themselves.