F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future is the dramatic title of a new report released today about the state of the nation’s fatness, among other things. It details which states are the fattest and which are the least fat, but still fat, because we’re all fat now! PANIC!
This is a symptom of a very serious problem, make no mistake about it. And our news media makes that very clear with attention grabbing headlines such as Top Ten Fattest States: Is Yours on the List, Fatty?, The Grit: The Enormous Generational Lard-Ass Experiment, and Fatties Are Us: Washington Obesity Rate Nearly Doubles.
If this is really concern for our health, why the vitriol? Lard-Ass. Really? Is obesity a serious epidemic or a joke? Can we make up our minds about this, please?
F as in Fat mentions in passing increases in diabetes and heart disease, but focuses mainly on telling us how obese we are. If this is really concern for our health, why don’t they focus on the symptoms that actually kill you. I don’t know anyone who has died of fat. I do know two people who almost died of heart attacks though: one of them was not fat.
Obesity isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of poor lifestyle choices. It’s a result of our nutritionless, ultra-processed, over-portioned diet, an incredibly reduced level of activity, and many other converging factors. Other results of these choices include heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and cancer.
In the comments section of these and other articles and blogs about obesity, a loud chorus of voices seems to be saying, “Stop being so fat you lazy fat-ass fatty.”
I’m going to tell you something I don’t usually mention on this blog because my goal is to be motivational and to help people believe it is possible:
Losing weight, especially a lot of weight, is really, really hard. It takes a long time. You have to work on it every day for the rest of your life. Everything around you will make it harder. Society doesn’t want you to change – you’ll buy less food and they’ll lose money. People around you don’t want you to change – your new healthy lifestyle will be threatening to some of them because they will feel it reflects poorly on them. And you don’t want to change. It is always easier to stay the same than to do something different. You will have to do many things differently. Forever.
I can tell you it is hard because I failed many times before I succeeded. The first year of the process this time around was no walk in the park either. I had to drag myself to the gym even though I really did not want to go. I had to completely change how I was eating and looking at food. I cried. Multiple times. I had stupid yelling arguments with my boyfriend because I felt sensitive and discouraged. I felt like I would never get there. Everyone around me seemed to be eating whatever they wanted and I couldn’t and it would never be good enough.
Modern American life isn’t designed to help us eat healthy and be healthy when we’ve never done that and don’t know how. I feel lucky because I moved 3,000 miles away from everyone I knew so none of my friends were there to discourage me from working out and encourage me to go to the bar. I know I am lucky because I have a partner who is very supportive and willing to change, who never put up a fight as I made more and more changes to my diet. And I am definitely lucky that I’m doing well enough financially that buying whatever food I want isn’t an issue and I have the luxury of driving my car to the healthier grocery store that’s farther away. Most people have a lot more obstacles than I do.
(It still is possible, of course, but it would be a lie to say it’s easy. It’s harder for some than others. Regardless of the obstacles, it’s up to you.)
The standard advice to eat less and move more is as simple as it seems and more complex than we generally imagine:
There are 3,500 calories in a pound. If you subtract 100 calories per day by walking for 20 minutes, you ought to lose a pound every 35 days. Right?
Wrong. First, it’s difficult for an individual to hold calorie intake to a precise amount from day to day. Meals at home and in restaurants vary in size and composition; the nutrition labels on purchased foods — the best guide to calorie content — are at best rough estimates. Calorie counting is therefore an imprecise art.
Second, scientists recently have come to understand that the brain exerts astonishing control over body composition and how much individuals eat.
My point is that it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would be thin. Never think that your personal experience reflects anything about other people’s lives. Everyone knows what to do- but your mind has to get to the right place to be able to do it. Making people feel ashamed of their weight or insulting people by name-calling is not helpful. Nobody ever makes a positive change in her life because somebody else made her feel bad about herself.
Acknowledging obstacles and working on ways to overcome them is not the same thing as making excuses.
There is something wrong with our diet and lifestyle. Dietary changes can lessen the incidence of multiple diseases drastically. They can also help us lose fat, but healthy living isn’t just for fat people.
Obesity isn’t the problem, our lifestyle is.