The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Positive body image movement ignores health risks

3 min read
By Alexandria Riker America is the land of the free and home of the brave, but has recently become the land of fast food and home of the obese.


By Alexandria Riker

America is the land of the free and home of the brave, but has recently become the land of fast food and home of the obese.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of adult Americans are classified as obese. This past December, the American Medical Association officially recognized and classified obesity as a disease, a statement with which I could not disagree with more.

Now, normally when the AMA makes a classification, it becomes news to the public. Not only has the recognition of obesity as a disease by the AMA become news, but it has also sparked booming controversy throughout the public concerning whether or not the AMA made the right call.

While the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute commented that obesity is a “complex, multifactorial disease,” and the World Health Organization stated, “obesity is now well recognized as a disease,” others do not maintain such opinions.

According to U.S. News and World Report, University of California, Davis nutritionist Linda Bacon stated that, “the AMA just determined that some people are sick based on how they look. What’s next?

Will they pronounce being black as a disease because there are higher rates of cardiovascular disease in black communities?”

The people who seem to have the biggest problem with the recent classification of obesity as a disease are people who stand with the “Fat is Beautiful” movement. For those who are unfamiliar with the recently ignited movement, it consists of campaigns that fight for the right of overweight people to be treated equally, including when it comes to medical approaches for someone whose body is larger  than the “social norm.”

This movement has demonized people like Cathy Young, writer for the Boston Globe, who wrote, “the fat acceptance movement is hazardous to our health,” and Barbara Kay, writer for the National Post, who wrote, “fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity.”

The fact of the matter is, obesity is an epidemic sweeping across America, and making excuses for why it is ok or why it should be accepted are not going to cut it when obesity ends up becoming a leading cause of death for Americans. Columbia University and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examined the real impact of obesity on death rates in which the results revealed that nearly one in five U.S. deaths is associated with obesity, which is nearly three times higher than previously recorded estimates. It is hard for me to see obesity as being a disease when, unless it is a symptom or side effect of a previous medical condition, it is generally inflicted upon oneself.

Unfortunately, over-sensitivity has become a norm in American society, and excuses are being made left and right for things people do not want to face or own up to.

The “Fat is Beautiful” movement is a perfect example of this. Unless managed, being fat leads to being obese, and being obese is life threatening once it reaches a certain point.

Instead of taking responsibility for their own life and health, many are using this classification of obesity as yet another excuse as to why the unhealthy lifestyle they live is acceptable. An estimate from the nonprofit RTI International (formerly known as Research Triangle Institute) says that about 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 if obesity trends continue.

Obesity is an unfortunate occurrence in America, but it is an occurrence that needs to be recognized as a result of a person leading a poor diet, exercise schedule and overall lifestyle. The ramifications of being obese need to be recognized; there are larger implications than just to the individual.

According to Phit America, $190 billion is the amount of added medical costs every year that are estimated to stem from obesity-related problems. That is nearly 21 percent of total U.S. health care costs.

Keeping that in mind, it does not seem so evil to think that considering obesity as a disease does nothing but cut people breaks they do not deserve and give them excuses they do not need.

2 thoughts on “Positive body image movement ignores health risks

  1. Well said. Here’s a different perspective. Classifying obesity as a disease can shut down the HAES argument which the fat activists have mangled to mean ‘I’m healthy at obese size.’ They can claim they’re healthy but you can tell them they have a disease and work towards removing it.

  2. I wish you would have also delved into the fact that our food systems here in the US set people up for “failure” when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Have you done research into the connection between socioeconomic status and obesity? This piece is one sided and honestly sounds like it was written by someone who likes to fat-shame.

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