The Incredible Scam of Dieting

  1. The first is that fat people, “obese” people, “overweight” people are all human beings deserving of respect and love and belonging, and it should not matter what other people think. I mean specifically that what another person thinks of your weight should not affect your job, the healthcare you receive, or your ability to care for yourself. Human beings all deserve life’s basic necessities like clothing and shelter and yes, food. After all, that would all be incredibly counter productive even if the goal was “weight loss”. I recall a ridiculous article a while back (or was it a tweet?) of a journalist upset by plus-size Nike mannequins on display…which, what are all these fat people supposed to exercise in, then, to lose weight?
  2. The second thing I wish all people who have never attempted to lose more than 20–40 pounds understood is that changing your body that much is an expensive, incredibly time consuming, incredibly narcissistic, herculean feat that is achieved by very few in the long term. It’s recently come to my attention that some people do not know what the framework “Health at Every Size” actually means. It is a treatment and public health framework made to encourage people in fat bodies to eat healthy, exercise, and take care of their bodies — including adequate, dignified medical care. This is precisely built on the knowledge that those interventions will not necessarily change your weight or size, but will still improve your health, such as your blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Not all people whose bodies you don’t like are people who never exercise and eat mostly fast food — that’s a reductionist stereotype and grossly oversimplified. We are built to resist famine. We are built to maintain homeostasis. Regardless of what you think of this “obesity epidemic”, you should first at least recognize that this is an incredible challenge — most especially for people who have had larger bodies most of their lives rather than some blip in time. Because…
  3. Third, humans have natural variation in their bodies. Human sizes, like all biological variations, exist on a bell curve, meaning there is a very wide range of possibilities but sure, most people will fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t actually know, right now, what weight or how much adipose tissue is unhealthy for whom, and especially, what actually is the far end of the bell curve. For some groups, a lower BMI threshold (an incredibly flawed system I will rant about another time) is correlated to health problems where other groups will be correlated at a higher BMI. Notice how I am choosing my words very carefully. No one has ever died of obesity. People die of diabetes, of heart disease, and a plethora of conditions that are correlated with obesity — and successful treatment of these is also dependent on medical care. It is still not well understood what the “threshold” is for size, weight, and adipose tissue is that contributes to these conditions except in a very general sense — in truth, it’s far more likely that there is a varying threshold for every person, because of this natural human variation. We see the same variation in height — it is partially genetic and partially influenced by lifestyle (during the growth and development of children). People are also getting taller on average as childhood malnourishment is less common, though that is not spoken of as an epidemic. In fact the most “obese” countries in the world are mostly Polynesian islands, where people have always had larger frames (think Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson). This is why I use the word “obese” and related terms in quotes, because it is a word that does not actually mean anything — it points to a very specific threshold of a BMI over 25. That threshold was adjusted down from a previously higher threshold by the World Health Organization in 1988. Overnight, millions of people became “obese” because of a metric adjustment. You can imagine how that contributed to the “obesity epidemic”.

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Selam G.

Selam G.

MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.