It is Not OK to be Overweight

Over the next few posts I’ll be publishing some excerpts from my upcoming diet book, The Morris Plan.  I begin by fighting the concept that overweight people should just “accept themselves.”

Putting the “accept your weight” nonsense to rest once and for all.

If bald guys (a club I will be joining if my father is any indication) want to start a club and shout from  the rooftops that “bald is beautiful” – more power to them. Baldness is a natural condition in many men, and it’s great that they can have some fun with it.  But if it should someday be discovered that heart disease and diabetes are caused by lack of hair, we would expect that the follicle challenged men of the world would be looking for ways to regrow their hair.  We would not deem such behavior to be narcissistic, nor would we tell them to accept the missing hair and all the health problems that come with it.  We would not write books telling them that they should just accept themselves and to reject the message being sent by the media, that thinks all men should have hair. (After all, no men really have hair like that; it’s all airbrushed.)

Magazines like Radiance (which thankfully has cratered) and BBW tout the wonders of being overweight. I’ve never actually caught them arguing that fat is better, but they make very clear that you should not be concerned about being fat. Here is a quote from a recent issue of BBW that nicely summarizes the position of the pro-fat crowd:

“As plus-size women, we have a tough row to hoe in this society. Stereotypes about us – we’re stupid, we’re lazy, we’re unhealthy and we’re unattractive – are so pervasive that they impact our education, our critical care and our relationships. Negative attitudes about people of size are so ingrained that preschoolers develop size prejudice before they exhibit any other kind of prejudice. There’s an annual $33 billion dollar diet industry in this country that perpetuates those stereotypes in order to improve their bottom line.”

There you have it.  There is no problem being fat.  In fact, the idea that being overweight is bad is a huge conspiracy propagated by the “diet industry” and supported by our schools.

No matter how much some people want it to be otherwise, seriously overweight people do not get a politically-correct pass. I hope I can finally make this distinction clear enough for everyone to understand.  A fat person is not a bad person, nor should he or she be subject to any derision because of their weight. Overweight people should not walk around in a state of depression because of their weight. Nor should they feel shame for being overweight (as long as they are doing something about it). At the local water park, I overhear comments about the fat people, such as, “how can that guy go out in a bathing suit in public like that?” It’s just stored fat for crying out loud.

But overweight people should never be told to “accept” their weight.  A fat person that is not doing anything about their weight is bad because they are being self-destructive, no less than someone who drinks too much.  Being fat is bad, and no one should ever argue otherwise or encourage someone to remain fat.  Here is just a partial list of the health problems associated with excess weight that have been confirmed through research: hypertension, cancer (especially breast, colorectal and endometrial), sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), gastroesophageal reflux disease (severe heartburn), diabetes, coronary artery disease and strokes.

There is a movement to remove all stigma from society. Stigma, when appropriate, is good. What the “accept yourself” crowd fails to realize is that a certain level of stigma is appropriate toward people that engage in self-destructive behavior, and doing nothing about being overweight is self-destructive. Going back to the days when it was necessary to eject Og from the cave when he exhibited bizarre behavior, if society can use stigma to direct people back toward non-destructive behavior, that is a good thing. Smokers, drug users and people who drink to excess should be stigmatized, and yes, fat people should not be exempt from disapproving looks.  How many times have you heard a story about someone who, after being called fat by some jerk, finally got serious about losing weight?  A high-profile example of effective stigma involves the beach pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt. Within two months of the release of the unflattering bathing suit photos, and despite her ensuing “real women have curves” protestations, she had dropped 20 pounds. and was showing off her new thinner body in Maxim Magazine.

The Morris Diet Plan - Jennifer Love Hewitt

Ironically, one of Hewitt’s co-star’s on the Ghost Whisperer practically turned fat acceptance into an avocation. Camryn Manheim, who described herself as a “self-loving, fat activist”, rationalized her weight to the point that she wrote a book called Wake Up, I’m Fat, explaining her acceptance of fat and how she had overcome society’s prejudices. Do you see how bad that is? It’s hard enough to stay strong while getting oneself into healthy shape, and people like Manheim offer a gold-plated rationalization. I can picture a poor woman, giving up on a diet while proclaiming, “She’s fat, and she’s a television star!” Like Hewitt, Manheim then lost some weight and hit the media circuit again, posing for pictures and talking about how fun it was to be hit on at the gym.

Camryn Manheim Gives Bad Advice

As The Morris Plan makes clear, there is no justification for remaining fat. The stigma that befalls fat people is based on the fact that they are failing to take proper care of themselves. Just as you would have a negative reaction to someone who refused to bathe, because it reflects a lack of concern over hygiene, it is understandable that people see obesity as a lack of concern over health.

It is tragic that so much of our energy and money is spent treating the health issues caused by excess weight, instead of attacking the weight itself. When I hit my 40s, I started having severe heartburn problems. I spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with this issue, including more than one trip to the emergency room.  I chalked up all of this as a normal part of aging, because most of my friends were experiencing heartburn problems, albeit to a lesser degree. No doctor ever told me that losing weight might help the problem. If any doctor had offered surgery as a possible solution, I would have jumped at it.

When I dropped 50 pounds, the heartburn stopped. I’ve stop taking all the medicine. Words cannot express how nice it is to be able to go to a restaurant with friends and eat and drink whatever I want with no fear of heartburn. I also used to suffer from sciatica – a back related problem that causes pain (or sometimes numbness) to radiate down your leg. As an added bonus, that too has disappeared, although I also attribute that to exercise.

It is beyond dispute; excess weight is a serious health problem. In your weak moments, when Dr. Phil is telling you to be happy with yourself and not to fixate on your weight, keep telling yourself that the desire to lose weight is not narcissistic, it is an essential part of maintaining your health. Don’t rationalize to the contrary with anecdotal evidence. Yes, we all know or have heard of someone who was seriously overweight, ate a high-fat diet their whole lives, and lived to 100. Just as there are smokers that never develop any smoke-related health issues, there are exceptions to every rule. However, you cannot guide your life by the anomalies.

When you feel like quitting, or a diet saboteur is telling you that you look fine and should just accept your weight, remember that this is far more than a question of aesthetics. Your excess weight is literally killing you.

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August 7, 2012Permalink 2 Comments
2 Responses to It is Not OK to be Overweight
  1. Caroline says:

    It’s insane that you consider that first picture “fat”. I’m very skinny and I can tell you I’d kill for an ass like that. That’s actually my dream body

  2. Catherine says:

    Finally – an article with common sense on this topic.

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