Thursday, June 6, 2013

Is it really okay to be fat?

Wow.. it's been a long time since I threw some words on the page here.

So what has inspired me to write? Well, fitness! I recently stumbled across a "Health Coach" on Twitter by the name of  Golda Poretsky or @bodylovewellness.

Golda is a self proclaimed "fat woman" and "health coach" whose goal:

"is to empower plus sized women to live their best, most joyful lives, free of stress and shame over what they eat and what they weigh."
Wow. While at first glance helping overweight women to not feel shameful about themselves is a good goal, digging further into Golda's philosophy reveals some dangerous ideas as well as some facts represented in ways that are enabling to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Golda has a TED talk published on youtube. The link: Why It's Okay To Be Fat

In it she espouses some of the following "facts" about being fat not being as dangerous as the public generally believes:

1: Fatter people who have Type II diabetes typically deal with the disease better than thinner people.
(This, of course, ignores the fact that the overall cause of Type II diabetes is being fat).

2. Fatter people have an easier time surviving strokes.
(This ignores the fact that the causes of stroke are more likely to occur in people who are fatter.)

3. People who are fatter deal with recovering from surgery and cancer better.
(This ignores the fact that one is more likely to need surgery or get cancer from being fat and the unhealthy diet that goes along with it).

The facts about being overweight aren't nearly as rosy Golda portrays them.

You are more likely to develop diseases, syndromes, cancers, from being overweight.

 Pregnant women who are overweight are more likely to have issues with their pregnancies and premature babies.

Overweight people account for more than their share of the cost and increase in cost of health care.

She then goes on to post a study done over 14 years of 12,000 people that looked at BMI and 4 healthy habits. (12000 people is not a very compelling number of people in my opinion).

The study found that regardless of BMI, if you did all four of the healthy habits your mortality rate was lowered to around the same level. The less of these practices you did, the more you benefited from having a normal BMI.. in other words, fat people and skinny people who did all four had the same mortality rate. Between the fat and skinny people that did none of the four things, the skinny people had a much less mortality rate.

Now unless all of these people died in the 14 years of the study, we really don't know the lifelong results, so the study is limited in scope and hardly a good starting point for telling people that they shouldn't be concerned about excess body fat.

In her coaching strategy, Golda espouses three tenants under her "Health At Every Size" model.

Intuitive eating: Eating in a way that is in line with your hunger signals, and with pleasure. Eating a variety of food.

Finding body movement that is appropriate for your body and enjoyable.

Accepting your body.

So, despite the obvious fallacy in Golda's three "Facts" about being fat and the study she cited, I do agree with her in one aspect, accepting yourself. I don't believe that means, as Golda seems to, being content to be overweight and using flawed data to enable others to be okay with that. I believe a much more healthy and helpful way to accept your body is to find things you like about it and things you dislike, realize you are not perfect, and then decide what is realistic for you to change about what you don't like.

There is a growing culture of "fat acceptance". This seems a a very dangerous road to go down. Focusing on accepting that one is fat and trying to (pardon the phrase) sugar coat the increased risk to one's health from being fat does not do anyone any good and may cause some to feel that they are enabled to be unhealthy and to continue down a destructive path in their lives.

I would rather see people like Golda espouse focusing on healthy habits, rather than  discrediting weight... because it's the healthy habits that will cause one to lose weight, and to be healthier overall. The benefits of having less body fat cannot be denied, nor can the increased risk of diseases and health issues resulting from more body fat.

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