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Why You Should Read Between the Lines of Scientific/Journalistic “Studies” on Fatness

I’ve been in a bit of a mood about the latest “research” regarding obesity and being overweight. Cara does a good summary of the issues regarding the first study in question, which focuses on overweight women who think they’re normal.  Because, of course, we all know overweight isn’t normal.  And how dare you think you’re something you’re not.  How dare you be bold enough to have a healthy, positive, loving view of your body in this woman-hating society.  There’s something wrong with you.

The other study (which I can’t find the article on anymore, would someone link in the comments?) is an analysis of I think 19 different studies that finds an increased risk of death for people who are only slightly overweight.  The study was done on white people only, and the indicator used was BMI, which we all know is pretty problematic.  But what bothers me the most is the way it’s reported.  Yet another “oh my God, you’re going to DIE if you’re fat!” article designed to evoke fear in the populous.  Because plenty of people, of course, are “just a little overweight.”  But you know what?  Stepping out onto the street increases your risk of death.  You might be hit by a bus.  And while I’m skeptical of the study design, even putting that aside, the framing of the message is harmful to those who will read it and think “oh shit, I’m a little overweight, I might die sooner.”  I’m guessing your reaction to that is less likely to be “hey, I should change my diet or exercise more!” and more likely to be, well, depression. Which can kill you.

So let’s stop striking the fear into the hearts of fat people and instead think about holistic health, which includes love and respect for your body, respect for how other people view their bodies, and not scaring the shit out of those who dare not to apply the tried and true formula of diet and exercise (or those who can’t).