A lot of people assume that the overweight and obese are unhealthy. While it is true that there are health risks associated with excess weight, it is not true that average weight people are immune to these risks.
Poor diet and lack of physical activity can lead to a variety of problems, one of which is obesity. But thin people can also get diabetes, die of heart attacks, and suffer from high blood pressure. I think a lot of people mistakenly believe that
Poor lifestyle choices = obesity = health risks
but the truth is
Poor lifestyle choices =health risks (possibly including obesity)
You can’t look at a person and know how she lives her life. You might look at a 300 pound person and think you know something about her, but what you might not know is that she used to weigh 400 pounds and she works out 6 days a week and counts every calorie she eats. You might look at a slim person and think you know something about her, but what you might not know is that she drinks herself into oblivion nightly and eats one greasy fast food meal a day and little else.
My point is that when we say things about how overweight people need to lose weight “for their health” it is condescending and inaccurate. Living a healthy lifestyle is about actions, not your physical appearance. If we really cared so much about people being healthier, we would express concern for people who are sedentary and eat poorly. But we don’t; we only talk about how unhealthy fat people are.
Eating well and exercising have benefits for everyone. Losing weight is simply a pleasant side effect.
We should really call it “diet and lifestyle-related disease” instead of “obesity-related disease” because I think the latter gives people the impression that if they aren’t overweight, they needn’t concern themselves with healthy eating or exercise. Instead of simply weighing patients and then admonishing them for their weight, as many a doctor has done to me in the past, doctors should be asking their patients questions about what they eat, how much, how often, and how much physical activity they get. These are actions people can change. If we felt good about simply changing the action, rather than having to wait for a result (weight loss) there would be more incentive to do it and less risk of frustration when the pay-off doesn’t come soon enough.
I’m going to continue eating right and exercising, not just because it will help me maintain my weight loss, but because it gives me so many additional benefits in my daily life. These are benefits anyone can enjoy- fat, thin, and everyone in between. Let’s stop berating people about their weight and start encouraging healthy living for everyone.