A Word about the Obesity Epidemic

In all the current national kerfluffle about Healthcare Reform, one thing keeps popping up as a prevenable medical thing, and that is the obesity epidemic. It seems that "everyone" (the ubiquitous "they") is all up in arms about this thing, this reality that has hit our country, our western world. Everywhere coca-cola and McDonald's go, there is the obesity epidemic.

And it is such a scandal. Such a shame. Shame! Shame! Shame! A national shame and a personal shame! oh, the scandal of it all! How dare we be so fat!?!!!!

Our health is in crisis and our health care system, some say, is in crisis. The way we are insured is in crisis. It's all coming to a head and it's so easy to look around and point fingers at greasy food or a supposedly lazy people with muffin-tops hanging out of their jeans. It's perfectly acceptable to despise the fat. Ask me how I know. I listen to talk. And so often, some person will commment about another person (always behind their back) and their weight, with a head shaking in disapproval. This seems to be a socially accepted form of judgement. Be tolerant of everybody...just not Christians or fat people. But I digress.

Now I'm going to speak about the obesity epidemic as an obese person. Yes, I'm obese. By all medical definitions, I fit that category by about 20 pounds, even though usually people say to me "oh, no you aren't obese". But I am. And I feel it.

The problem, you see, with the "obesity epidemic" as it is so called, is that obesity is NOT an epidemic. It's not something that spreads, like a cold or the flu. There is no epidemiology behind this phenomenon.

So, calling it an epidemic feels demeaning and is very inaccurate to what is going on.

And another thing I can tell you: Every single fat or obese person in the world KNOWS they are fat and/or obese. They don't need a doctor to tell them that they are fat. They don't need anyone to tell them that they need to lose weight. We know it. Our backs know it. Our knees know it. Our fatigued energy levels know it.

And I'd hazard to say, speaking for myself and most other overweight people in the world: many of us are somewhat mystified as to what happened. We are living our lives, and suddenly we find ourselves obese. Pregnancy can do it. Caring for others can do it. Suddenly you put yourself behind others, the ones you are caring for and you wake up to a fat body, or an obese body and you wonder about yourself: How did this happen? And you feel shame.

Creeping bad eating and exercise habits are to blame, for sure, but I can guarantee you that very very few people actually realize what they are doing to themselves at the time.

And another thing I can say: If a person is obese, there is a very good chance that that person is very very stressed out about something or other in his or her life. Or sad. Or lonely.

I think the obesity epidemic is more about the sadness and the loneliness and the stress than it is about McDonald's or the food. The food is a symptom and the fat is a symptom. And no one else seems to be asking the question: What is really going on, here?

I think in order to solve the obesity "epidemic" (I'd prefer to call it a phenomenon or perhaps a crisis), I think it would behoove the health care leaders of this nation to dig a little bit deeper and to ask different questions.

Instead of gossiping about the fat gal at Church who gained a bunch of weight and how could she let herself go like that, perhaps we should be wondering with compassion at the stress in her life, and the sadness and the loneliness.

I think we need a new paradigm. Because when I look in the mirror, all I can do is try to solve my own personal obesity problem. And perhaps the new paradigm needs to start with the stories I tell myself, about my own life: About the griefs I bear, the stresses I experience, the giving I do. The new paradigm needs to be about finding balance...(for myself), for persons personally, but also for a nation and a culture.

Because more than anything, when I look around at our obese nation, I see a culture out of balance and people out of balance, and persons-precious persons, who are living stress-filled and sad lives. That, my friends, is what this is all about.


elizabeth said…
yes. I can see this. Lord have mercy.
BelleArtMom said…
amy said…
Wow ~ well said!

"I think the obesity epidemic is more about the sadness and the loneliness and the stress than it is about McDonald's or the food. The food is a symptom and the fat is a symptom. And no one else seems to be asking the question: What is really going on, here?"

amen... VERY few doctors that I've encountered in life are willing to look at root causes, be it obesity, addictions, migraine headaches, high cholesterol, etc... it's too easy for the patient, too lucrative for the Rx. companies, too efficient for the dr. to give a pill & have a surgery than to work with a human being on balance in life ...
Anonymous said…
So well written..you worded the feelings and thoughts so well. I just kept going, yes, yes, Amen...Thank you!
An obese sister in Christ
Tracy said…
Exactly! Amen and Amen!
Rebecca said…
It wasn't until I was in my mid-thirties that any doctor finally listened enough to realize it wasn't that I was eating too much, but there had to be something medically behind it ... and only then because my DH is a doctor and sat there telling them, "look, I eat 6 times as much as she does, and I lose weight and she continues to gain." Seven years later, we are still trying to figure out all of the intricacies of my medical issues, but I'm finally starting to lose some of my extra weight.

I used to tell my doctors not to harp on me about my weight unless they had something better to say than "diet and exercise" because I was already doing those. I've said more than once, "I graduated Summa Cum Laude, I'm not stupid! I know I'm obese!"
Alana said…
Rebecca, how many millions of us are out there like you? And we always get blamed and scolded. And we try SO HARD. I hate that.
margaret said…
Fat is the scapegoat for everything nowadays and it's ridiculous. We had a case in the UK a little while ago of parents getting a letter telling them their 6 year old was obese - she weighed 38lb. A month later a child was starved to death by her parents. No-one seems able to ask how we got to a point where we are more concerned about fat kids (and this one was normal) than we do about emaciated ones. The whole thing is totally insane.
mamajuliana said…
Preach it!

I probably was that obese girl in church that folks talked about...
Mimi said…
I agree indeed.
thegeekywife said…
Very well said.

sigh. "THEY" don't bother to ask why anorexia or bulimia is also on the rise, either. Blame the magazines, right?
deanna said…
What a post! Articulates so much so well and is so true. I am there in so many ways.

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