How many times have you heard, “as long as you’re healthy, it doesn’t matter what size you are”? Everybody’s been told, at one point or another, that weight doesn’t matter as much as leading a healthy lifestyle. Well, while the fat acceptance movement certainly advocates this stance, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. Never heard of the fat acceptance movement? Well, it really is just like it sounds. People all over are joining social groups that promote the idea that any one can be healthy at any size. While there is no debate about how stick-thin models further an unhealthy and unrealistic ideal of feminine beauty, is the opposite true? Is the recent trend of accepting overweight bodies just as unhealthy?
A Change in Media Portrayals
Recently, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has released a series of advertisements featuring barely-clad models the public isn’t used to seeing. These are not size 0 models! Their shapely and varied bodies reflect the other 99.9% of the population. While the models featured in this campaign do actually seem healthy, has this campaign and others like it helped to spur this fat acceptance movement, which really is more harmful than it sounds?
Can you be fat AND healthy?
Expert health opinions always come to the same conclusion – being overweight is bad for your health, especially your heart. In fact, according to getamericafit.org, obesity is the number two cause of preventable death in America. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of life-threatening diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and even sleep apnea. This is no small problem – currently, over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. There are even certain obesity-related conditions which uniquely affect women, such as arthritis, birth defects, and infertility. Scary stuff.
Support for the movement?
A 2008 study in Archives of Internal Medicine actually suggests that the location of fat deposits is a huge factor in the health risks of being overweight. For normal to overweight people, belly fat places them at a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes than people who store their junk in their trunk – butt and thighs. But for obese people, fat accumulation in the liver puts them at an even greater risk. Other studies have shown that fit overweight and obese people have lower cardiovascular mortality rates than thin but unfit people. Also, physicians tend to use the overly simplistic method of measuring body weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) to determine whether someone is healthy, but a more accurate way would be to examine their lifestyle, such as food choices and level of physical activity.
Are such studies just an excuse for overweight or obese people to remain complacent about their excess weight? Physicians are concerned that this current trend of fat acceptance can be harmful to our health. While this social movement to accept healthy at any size has its flaws, there is certainly one benefit that does come along with such a movement – a healthy body image. Nevertheless, it’s still important to pair a healthy body image with an actual healthy lifestyle.